About the improvised operas

In performance, both operas take the shape of an improvised collage that combine conduction (using hand cues), graphic scores, memory-based improvisational structures, and traditionally notated music. I, Norton is an open-ended project—a perpetual work-in-progress—with additions made for each performance.  Dissecting Adam is in a middle phase of development, adding flesh to a metaphorical skeleton.  For this workshop, elements and characters from both I, Norton and Dissecting Adam will be combined and juxtaposed, to reflect upon the larger whole.

I, Norton
The opera takes place during the Emperor’s final moments, as he lay dying on a rain-soaked street. The sound and images in each performance act as a metaphor for his life flashing before his eyes—events overlap and appear in fragments, often repeated and exaggerated. As a result, there is no linear storytelling involved; portions of the Emperor’s life are revealed through each realization of the piece.

Dissecting Adam
The opera relates the existence of 111 year old Evelyn, whose life spans three centuries, having been born in 1899 and dying in 2011. Her story is interpreted by an ensemble of solo female voices.  Generationally, the singers individually represent eras of Evelyn’s life, providing a skeletal frame for the exploration of the evolutionary archetype through her relationship to the male figures in her life (collectively known as “Adam”). Her lifetime provides the construct for artistic collaboration and exploration of other themes including (but not limited to) the word play on “adam” (human being, here translated as man) and the feminine “adamah” (ground, soil), and the ancient Chinese practice of using oracle bones for divination.

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