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THE WEB OPERA
May 12, 2020 - July 31, 2020
Note: ACF will feature pre-recorded, streaming concerts on our calendar for 10 days. Please check the full description for additional details about the entire duration a pre-recorded event is available for viewing.
Complete Stream Available Now – 12/31/20 and beyond – www.thewebopera.com
“A great 21st Century Opera, an important story told very very well.’— Randy Newman
Watch all three episodes here!
Composer Michael Roth, whose work has been called “music one could imagine Charles Ives composing had he encountered beat poetry and rock and roll” has composed chamber music, music for film and dance, and especially music and sound for theatre, over 250 scores heard throughout North America (Broadway, off-Broadway, Canada’s Stratford Festival), collaborating with Tom Hanks, Randy Newman, Christopher Plummer, Peter Sellars, Stacy Keach, Brian Dennehy, Stephen Erdody, Peter Sprague and many others – including his authorized music/theatre treatment of SAMUEL BECKETT’S “IMAGINATION DEAD IMAGINE” for string quartet, recorded voices, and laptop, performed in Los Angeles, San Diego, and most recently, at a Beckett Festival in Prague.
THE WEB OPERA, Roth’s provocative self-produced groundbreaking experiment in opera, film and music created to be presented online, tells of a group of college freshmen and the invasion of privacy that forever changes a young man’s life. Based on true events. filmed as if seen via laptop, iPhone, or iPad, this story about the violation of privacy compels the viewer to violate the privacy of the characters themselves. An official selection at fourteen film festivals and acclaimed with a Humanitarian Award, THE WEB OPERA also encourages and supports via its website suicide prevention and the fight against cyber abuse.
“Roth and his collaborators have created a unique, remarkable, and moving work that wrestles with the toxic dangers posed by the confluence of (here, homophobic) bullying and internet technology. In THE WEB OPERA, the audience views the action through the perspective of a computer webcam and/or the camera of a computer, laptop, or iPhone. Throughout, we are reminded of how much humans have become dependent upon and addicted to this technology. The close-up, claustrophobic shots only serve to exacerbate this hard truth. Roth’s musical score is an ingenious synthesis of styles and genres, classical and popular, featuring both computer and traditional instruments. For certain, the influences of both the Broadway stage and popular music may be heard. But what emerges is a style all Roth’s own, one that does not sound derivative. I particularly admire the way Roth delineates the three central characters (all the principals are referred to by their computer screen names); the college roommate (FG97), his friend (June99), and the violinist (Violinist98). Violinist98 (touchingly sung and acted by Adam von Almen) in particular emerges as a sympathetic, three-dimensional character. Violinist 98’s beautiful Episode 2 monologue could easily hold its own on the popular or concert recital stage. The other two principal vocalist/actors, Reuben Uy and Stephanie Cecile Yavelow, are also absolutely convincing in every way. All of the singers employ a popular (rather than an operatic) method of voice production, entirely appropriate for the drama and Roth’s music.
I found THE WEB OPERA to be both a compelling and fulfilling musical experience, a worthy and thought-provoking work that merits attention.”
(Ken Meltzer, Fanfare Magazine)
“Opera meets the World Wide Web: composer Michael Roth has constructed a piece very much of our time. Masterfully directed by Kate Jopson, THE WEB OPERA is cast in three episodes. As Director of Photography, Dana Fytelson creates miracles, Roth’s score and soundscape via Steven Cahill’s sound mix sounds simply awesome through headphones (it was recorded at Spragueland, Encinitas, California, and in Santa Monica).
Based on true events, the piece explores cyberbullying and abuse within the online musical community. We, the viewers, become the computer screen into which the protagonists gaze. The screen can not only show the humans, but also the conversations that happen online as well as online search results. The opera begins amusingly enough, with actor Reuben Uy as college freshman FG97 (characters are referred to by their dehumanizing email addresses) setting up a webcam: instructions are seen on-screen as well as set to music. Anyone who has ever tried to set up a webcam will relate to the frustrations.
There is plenty of humor, and in the first scene the music is superbly bright and upbeat, the recording fabulously present, using the full available sound space. There is a sense of the musicals around this, and Uy’s voice is brilliantly of the musicals. As the scene shifts, so does the music, abruptly and effectively. The second episode is more minimalist in tone: we see a violinist practicing (Adam Von Almen) and, when he goes online, we feel his loneliness palpably. Von Almen’s voice is remarkable, blanched of feeling as if emotionally numb. He quotes the Bible, “suffer the little children unto me”; I wonder if the link here with Marie’s Biblical quotations in WOZZECK is intended? Roth’s music has the ability to reflect light and shade.
The third episode (the last we have so far, but four and five are promised) finds FG97’s friend June99. When they connect to the webcam to spy, the effect is really quite discombobulating: both FG97 and June99 (Stephanie Cecile Yavelow) are very close to the screen, as if invading our, the viewers’ privacy. The progress of the opera is frozen through silence; a single violin note takes us into a slow processional as the protagonists examine their own guilt at infiltrating another human being’s space.
The moment when all five characters are on their phones reading and responding to messages instead of interacting with each other is so typical of what the World is rapidly becoming. With Christopher Gaal‘s dynamic motion graphics, the moment at which FG97 sends the message with the link to the sexual voyeurism is marked by a sea-change in the musical direction. It is clear something dramatic has happened, the result of just not thinking things through; of how easy all of this spying and dissemination of information is. Watching the lines in mirror image as the violinist realizes what has been going on is surprisingly harrowing, as if his world is being inverted, too. The final repetitions of the letters “http” are curtailed by the electronic equivalent of a gong stroke, leaving Violinist99 alone against a dark background, panting, frightened. The beautiful vocals of the slow outro over which the credits are shown are initially glorious; a twist of both timbre and harmony assures us there is no happy ending in sight.
The music is often high-voltage but there are moments of ensemble beauty, too. The remaining two episodes are eagerly awaited; this is a beautifully, poignantly constructed and brilliantly realized opera. A huge bravo to all concerned, and a real sense of wonder to the technical team’s wizardry. And a huge thanks, too, for bringing this vital issue to consciousness via the medium of music.
As of March, 2020, THE WEB OPERA has been honored as an official selection by 14 festivals: the LOS ANGELES EXPERIMENTAL DANCE & MUSIC FILM FESTIVAL (LA screening, February 6, 2020), New York’s IndieBOOM Festival (Winner, Best Music), the BEST SHORTS COMPETITION (Award of Merit; Humanitarian Award), INDIE SHORT FEST/LOS ANGELES, Australia’s INTERNATIONAL SHORTS FESTIVAL, LA’s INDEPENDENT SHORTS FESTIVAL, the WEB SERIES FESTIVAL GLOBAL, LOS ANGELES CINEFEST (semi-finalist, Best Web Series), ROME INDEPENDENT PRISMA AWARDS (semi-finalist, Best Web Series), and SHORT, TIGHT & LOOSE GLOBAL FILM FESTIVAL COMPETITION (Award of Excellence-Original Concept), in addition to Awards of Merit from the ONE REELER SHORT FILM COMPETITION, Honorable Mention from LA’s EXPERIMENTAL FORUM, and online presentations from both the LIFT OFF SESSIONS in the UK and New York’s LIFT-OFF GLOBAL NETWORK ONLINE FESTIVAL.
THE WEB OPERA is presented online to encourage all who view it, via the website, to support organizations working for suicide prevention and against cyber abuse. The first three episodes are online now, episodes four and five will be complete within the next year or so. To view all three episodes, to support the filming of episodes four and five, and for information regarding THE WEB OPERA’s mission, please visit www.thewebopera.com