Opera: Plastic Flowers
Chamber Opera – Monodrama.
Music and Libretto: João MacDowell
Concert Premiere December 17th
7:30pm Baruch’s Engelman Recital Hall
Mezzo Soprano: Abby Powell
Piano: Han Chen Live
Electronics: Luigi Porto
World premiere of Plastic Flowers at the Baruch Performance Arts Center, Engelman Recital Hall by the Brazilian composer Joao MacDowell. A one act work for solo voice, piano and live electronics.
It is the story of Penelope. She finds herself trapped in suburban America and delights in a feast of consumerism until realizing she is abandoned, childless and loveless. We follow her from the innocent Spanish songs that her Cuban father used to sing, through love affairs and marriage, until her riveting break down at the shopping mall. In the composer’s own words “It is a world of plastic, yet it is still possible to find happiness inside of it.”
Joao Macdowell uses a bi-tonal harmonic vocabulary to express the bi-polar mood of the character. The music may hint at familiar progressions, only to lead our ears in deceptive directions.
In his first opera Tamanduá, the composer presented American audiences with a patchwork of Brazilian popular rhythms interwoven with the urban stories of characters from Rio de Janeiro and New York. Tamanduá was the first opera in Portuguese ever produced in the USA and was received with praise in New York and New Jersey in 2008/9.
It seems that Mr. MacDowell purposely avoided anything ethnic or Brazilian in this new opera: there is no samba, no bossa-nova, hardly any soothing romantic stereotype. In the only “Latin” moment of the opera, we have a strange Salsa, in the form of the programmatic Dad’s song “Pequeñita”.
On the surface there is not much that may connect these two works. However, both have an undeniably personal musical touch, a continuous flow of memorable melodies and the composer’s feel for real life characters.
By presenting us with Plastic Flowers, the composer leaves us aware of the vast possibilities of creation that may be in store from his pen.
About Luigi Porto:
Italian composer, sound designer and music critic. Luigi Porto has worked for European film directors such as Matteo Vicino, Rocco Papaleo, Carlo Fusco, Gjerji Xhuvani, Nathan Cole and Vittorio De Seta.
In his own words:
“The starting theme sounds to me like thunder – I hear Wagner in it. It is also quiet and has a fake shadow. I like to define it as hieratic; a byzantine downbeat- sensitive psychodrama.
The dialogue between the acoustic and the electronic score is a war between conscious and sub-conscious, where the listener may feel like a small insect trapped inside the web that Penelope is weaving.
The sound design will be presented in surround format. I created some synthesizers using Max-MSP and used FM-synthesis, to generate harmonic sounds out of existing noises. The soundscapes are intended to make this opera sound like a movie.
In a sentence, Plastic Flowers is like Schoenberg meeting pop art.” Abby Powell:
Praised by the New York Times as a singer of “solid and youthful” tone, Ms. Powell has prolific experience on both operatic and world recital stages. She graduated from the Juilliard School in New York City with a Master of Music in Voice. Ms. Powell has been the recipient of numerous awards. Abby is committed to championing new works.
In her own words:
“For an opera singer, the opportunity to premiere and create a role in an opera is of great responsibility and honor. I am also beyond excited to work as a chamber musician within an electronic soundscape. This is a very demanding role and it is a humbling experience to be the singer who will bring Penelope to life for the first time. I think this is a very important work, it deserves to be heard.”
For More info:
www.luigiporto.com www.cargocollective.com/cilamacdowell www.bebelfrancoamapintar.multiply.com
Alexandra Filipe (production)