Press Room

02-03-2014

Opera Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute Bring Global Interactive Opera Simulcast to Philadelphia on Feb. 16

Audiences will interact with the robot opera Death and the Powers by MIT Media Lab’s Tod Machover

February 3, 2014 -Opera Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute will take part in a global experiment in 21st century opera on Sunday, Feb. 16, as a live performance of Death and the Powers by acclaimed American composer/inventor Tod Machover is simulcast from The Dallas Opera to more than ten locations in Europe and the U.S.  A Philadelphia audience can enter “the System” and get a “robot’s eye view” of the opera at 3:00 p.m. in the Franklin Theater at The Franklin Institute.

Science fiction and poignant family drama combine in this cutting-edge opera developed at the MIT Media Lab.  The visually spectacular robot pageant tells the story of terminally ill billionaire Simon Powers (Robert Orth) who cheats death by uploading his mind, memories, and emotions into “the System,” a technological environment of his own creation.  He proceeds to use all his powers to persuade his loved ones (Joélle Harvey as Miranda, Patricia Risley as Evvy, and Hal Cazalet as Nicholas) to join him there. Together, humans and robots will change the way you look at life, love and eternity.

They will also change the way you experience an opera. Audiences who attend this special simulcast will receive secondary audio, video and multimedia through a specially developed app downloaded to their cellphones, tablets and other handheld devices. They can also interact with the main performance onstage in order to influence the visual elements in the opera house in real time, as they unfold.

“The development of new opera and experimenting with new ways to experience opera are daily activities in our Lab at Opera Philadelphia,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. “This free simulcast of Death and the Powers brings technological innovation and musical artistry together is a genuinely thrilling cool way, and we are thrilled to share this experiment with opera lovers in Philadelphia.  Bring your mobile devices to the opera on Feb. 16 and this time we won’t be asking you to turn them off before the curtain rises.  Let’s tinker with this technology together and get a glimpse at the future of opera.”

Devan said he believed the city’s science museum was the ideal venue for an interactive robot opera. “We are so happy to partner with The Franklin Institute,” said Devan. “This unique partnership brings music and technology together while asking questions about how we consume art in our ever-changing global society.  Keith Cerny and his team at The Dallas Opera have done a tremendous job organizing this global simulcast, and kudos to Tod Machover and his MIT Media Lab team for developing the technology that will put the System in the palms of our hands.”

Death and the Powers, with music by composer/inventor Tod Machover (creator of the technology behind Guitar Hero) and text by librettist Robert Pinsky (one of America’s foremost living poets) received rave reviews at its sold-out 2010 Monte Carlo world premiere and subsequent engagements in Boston and Chicago.  This unprecedented Dallas Opera Global Simulcast offers far more than a mere stage production; patrons will experience Simon Powers’ perspective from within “The System,” as well as a “robot’s eye view” of the opera, while tapping into a variety of interactive features. Those attending the simulcast anywhere in the world will have an opportunity to interact with the main performance onstage—through cellphones, tablets and other handheld devices—in order to influence the visual elements in the Winspear Opera House in real time, as they unfold.

With its large, remotely controlled musical chandelier and chorus of autonomous robots, the opera has been hailed by critics for its futuristic take on the art form. David Patrick Stearns of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Death and the Powers doesn’t point the way to a new era of opera. It’s there. Now.”

The simulcast of Death and the Powers in The Franklin Theater is FREE.  Public tickets will be made available beginning on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at operaphila.org. Seating is first come, first served, and is not guaranteed. Tickets do not include museum admission.

To actively participate in this interactive simulcast, audience members at each site will download the specially created app - entitled Powers Live - which has been designed to work on any smartphone or tablet supporting Apple iOS 6 and 7 and Android 4.0 and higher. Available through the Apple iOS App Store and Google Play, Powers Live was designed and implemented at the MIT Media Lab by graduate students Peter Torpey and Ben Bloomberg, under Tod Machover's direction. 

Schedule for the event on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014

9:30 a.m.: Museum opens with robot activities at The Franklin Institute (museum admission required)

1:45 p.m.: Doors to The Franklin Theater open

2:15 p.m.: Learn about and download the “Powers Live” app

2:30 p.m.: Pre-opera content from Dallas

3:00 p.m.: Death and the Powers performance simulcast begins

4:30 p.m.:  Q&A with Opera Philadelphia’s David Devan