VALIS: An Opera by Tod Machover




Friday — Sunday
September 8, 2023 —
September 10, 2023

World Premiere of a New Production 

Baritone Davóne Tines and Mezzo-Soprano Anaïs Reno
Directed by Jay Scheib; Technology by the MIT Media Lab

September 8 + 9 at 7:30 pm ET; September 10 matinee at 3 pm ET
MIT Theater Arts Performance Space

Tod Machover’s first opera, VALIS, broke new ground and garnered rave reviews when it premiered in 1987, called “a work of bold imagination, strongly individual personality, and undeniable emotional impact” (Musical America) and “one of the brightest and most intelligent of new American operas” (The New Yorker). The CD of VALIS—still available on Bridge Records—was named “Best of the Year” by The New York Times. This brand-new production will give audiences the first opportunity in almost 30 years to experience a live performance of this seminal work, which is perhaps even more relevant today—in a world coming to grips with “deep fakes” and the rapid development of AI technology—than when it was first presented. 

The opera is based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. VALIS tells the story of Horselover Fat—the author’s alter-ego—who has a devastating-yet-enlightening “pink light” experience. Fat explores the blurred boundaries of reality and AI technology and considers the possibility of hope in a world where all knowledge is available but little of it is verifiable.

This production features the path-breaking baritone Davóne Tines (who starred in X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X with Detroit Opera) and mezzo-soprano Anaïs Reno, a quickly rising young vocal star with a love of jazz and The American Songbook. They are joined by the brilliant vocalists Timur Bekbosunov, David Cushing, Maggie Finnegan, Rose Hegele, and Kristin Young, as well as instrumentalists Julia Carey (piano/keyboard) and Maria Finkelmeier (percussions). Newly minted AI-enhanced performance technologies were created at the MIT Media Lab and will be performed by Max Addae, Emil Droga, Nina Masuelli, Manaswi Mishra, and Ana Schon. Director Jay Scheib—Machover’s colleague at MIT—is known for genre-defying works of daring physicality and the integration of new (and used) technologies in live performance; his augmented reality technology conjures psychedelic floating figures in his new production of Wagner’s Parsifal at Bayreuth this summer. 

About this new production, Tod Machover writes: “So many of my musical preoccupations and dramatic conceptions, as well many of my ideas for expression-enhancing interactive performing technologies, started with VALIS. The work feels as fresh to me—and its tunes and textures as memorable—as when it first premiered in Paris, and I am very gratified to have VALIS reimagined and relaunched in collaboration with this wonderful creative and performance team so that it might move and inspire new generations.”

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