L.A. Opera, ‘Modulation’

Collaboration with Prototype Festival Explores Frontiers of Digital Music and Theater

Still from Jimmy López Bollido’s “Where Once We Sang” | Credit: Courtesy

The pandemic-enforced drought of live performances has hit the opera world particularly hard. While the availability of high-quality recorded offerings has helped content-starved fans weather this period of deprivation, 10 months is a long time to go without new material. That’s just one of the reasons that the arrival of Modulation, a digital media collaboration between the Los Angeles Opera and the Prototype Festival, has been so welcome in the first weeks of this new year. Available to stream from January 8 through January 16, Modulation presents highly original new work by 13 composers in a format described as a “user-led digital experience.” By means of an interface navigation scheme familiar from video games, the audience chooses from a baker’s dozen of options grouped into three categories — Identity, Fear, and Isolation. Clicking on door-like or sculptural objects embedded in three separate screenscapes initiates the playing of individual music videos, each approximately five minutes in length. It’s a bit like opening an operatic advent calendar, only the sequence is up to the viewer.

The range of styles represented far surpasses any expectations one might derive from the idea of opera. While some works, such as the exquisite song “Where Once We Sang” by Peruvian composer Jimmy López Bellido hew closely to traditional concepts of classical music, others, such as the contribution of Ghanaian composer/performer Jojo Abot, come out of hybrid pop formations such as Afrobeat. Juhi Bansal, an Indian composer raised in Hong Kong, was inspired by the story of the Bangladesh Surf Girls club to create “Waves of Change,” a gorgeous and moving video that will surely hit home for many residents of the South Coast. Other composers featured include the antic Paul Pinto, Angélica Negrón, and Joel Thompson, who wrote perhaps the most tragically relevant choral work in recent American history, “The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed.” Music Academy of the West audiences can expect to share in the richness of this new stream of creativity as producer extraordinaire Beth Morrison joins forces with that organization in the upcoming season.


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