The future of opera is here, and it includes singing domestic sexbots
Time Out’s Theater editor has penned the libretto for a sci-fi opera about a woman, her android lover and a tech-support dude
Mon Apr 21 2014
Illustration: Robert Paterson
This week's cover story is about future New York: We look back on trendsetters of the past century and scan ahead to urban hipsters 90 years from now. As you would expect, technology is a big influence on Gothamites to come. But there is one major activity not addressed in the article: sex. How will folks get their future freak on? Will nano-stimulators render skin-on-skin contact unnecessary? Perhaps medical advances will eliminate venereal disease and intensify orgasms. Or we'll evolve past gender distinctions, becoming bisexual polyamorous androgynes.
Or we'll just, y'know, screw robots. The greatest minds in artificial intelligence and robotics seem intent on building androids to fool the eye, no matter how creepy the result. (There's a term for that feeling of unease and revulsion when you encounter technology that feels too human: "The Uncanny Valley.") A recent Pew Research survey finds that a majority of Americans do not want robots taking care of the sick and elderly. Nothing on whether they want a biomorphic machine to get biz-ay.
I have an answer to that question. It's a one-act opera called The Companion, composed by the marvelous Robert Paterson, after an original libretto by yours truly. This sci-fi comic opera is being presented one night only tomorrow at 8pm at Roulette in Fort Greene. It's on a double bill with Tarik O'Regan and Anna Rabinowitz's fascinating portrait of the Biblical Mary, The Wanton Sublime, featuring mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn and directed by Mallory Catlett. During intermission, both composers and librettists will chat with superstar novelist A.M. Homes. Come! It's $20. Buy tickets here.
What's The Companion about? From the program: Maya (Nancy Allen Lundy) is a single executive with a cozy house in the suburbs. Each day she comes home to Joe (Brandon Snook), her biomorphic android Companion. Owning a Companion is a status symbol. Joe looks, sounds and feels human—only better. They've been together for six months. But Maya feels like she's not getting the most out of Joe: He's acting glitchy and distant. She wants an upgrade. Tech-support agent Dax (Kyle Guglielmo) comes by and offers Maya a deal where she beta-tests new software that offers "more complexity." Frustrated and at the end of her service contract, Maya agrees. Dax and Maya flirt while Joe syncs with the new software, but Maya makes it clear that she wants "the perfect man." Working alone, Dax broods on the strangeness of humans, who he sees as "broken machines." The new Joe mocks Maya and withholds affection. They get into a bitter argument. Dax arrives in the middle of it, having been pinged for a service call. At Maya's request, he prepares to wipe Joe's memory. That's when Joe shocks them with an unexpected development.…
The Companion has been elegantly staged by Walker Lewis and the American Modern Ensemble orchestra will be conducted by wizardly Tyson Deaton. Oh, the image above? It was created by the multitalented Mr. Paterson and will be featured in the stage show as a magazine cover. See a larger version here.
See you in the future—and by that, I mean tomorrow night at Roulette!
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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)