Opera, Remixed


Courtesy of Ben Bloomberg

Courtesy of Ben Bloomberg

By Ben Bloomberg

I’m sitting in the cavernous Harris Theater in Chicago when an older man with a beard steps up to a microphone. “This project is something that will be remembered,” he says. “Ten or 100 years from now the history books will list this as the turning point, a great shift for the world of opera.” 

Although I’m a pop-music-loving college student, not an opera buff, I couldn’t agree more. And I am here—950 miles from MIT on a Monday afternoon, listening to discussions about arias and orchestration—because we’re gathered to talk about Death and the Powers, which is anything but a normal opera.

Let’s rewind four years. I arrived at MIT as a starry-eyed freshman looking for things to do and found Professor Tod Machover’s research group, Opera of the Future. Hey, it’s not my favorite kind of music, but a brief glimpse at his projects was enough to intrigue me. Tod, who has two Juilliard degrees in music composition and loves studio masterpieces like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, has been at the Media Lab since before I was born, developing instruments that allow performers to re-create complex studio performances live. 

I have a passion for entertainment technology—not game consoles or televisions but large-scale cranes, state-of-the-art lighting, video, and audio, and any other tools of artistic expression that can change the environment for a lot of people sitting in the same place. So it was with excitement and trepidation that I began to work for Tod as a UROP.

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