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The stage is a fixed space. It is the axis around which story, conflict, and character revolve. When that fixed space shifts, new possibilities emerge. Starting Wednesday, April 23, a shifting site for theater emerges at Deering Estate, a 444-acre environmental, archeological, and historical preserve along the edge of Biscayne Bay in Palmetto Bay. Four local playwrights have collaborated ..

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Those who attend film festivals aren't looking for the mainstream, Cineplex offerings. That isn't the goal. Amid the indie films, the foreign entries, documentaries, and the world premieres, there's another reason to canvass the program for something you might not see anywhere else. Given the Miami Film Festival is the only major film festival to be produced by a college or university..

{This interview was conducted before the film making team went on to amazing Oscar success.} Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney and filmmaker Barry Jenkins are nine miles away from the Liberty City housing projects where they both grew up, but they are worlds away. They are at the picturesque Standard Hotel to talk about the new movie "Moonlight," with a screenplay by Jenkins base..

First things first. Actor-playwright Elena María García does explain the meaning of “¡FUÁCATA!” somewhere deep into the 90-minute running time of Zoetic Stage’s “García Or a Latina’s Guide to Surviving the Universe.” The familiar Cuban term, she confides from her perch on Michael McKeever’s Mondrian-evocative set, suggests the sound of a slap. As in, “¡Fuácata! You really stepped in i..

“What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to not want to belong?” These are questions that choreographer Reggie Wilson contemplates in his provocative piece “CITIZEN,“ which makes its M..

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Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s studio evokes the feel of a tablao in Spain. The strumming of the guitar, the rapid-fire rhythms of footwork against the floor, and the soft voice of the singer reac..

Carson Kievman’s Out of this World Chamber Opera

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Written by: Michelle F. Solomon
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There were a few big bangs that happened when Carson Kievman, Ph.D., first began work on his chamber opera, Intelligent Systems, 35 years ago. For starters, there was Stephen Hawking’s research on the Big Bang theory and the transformative nature of the universe. There was a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1980 (“when the NEA funded those kinds of things,” remarks Kievman) and a commission from Germany’s Donaueschingen Festival in 1982 to develop a new work.

“This was the first opera they ever commissioned," says Kievman about Donaueschingen, one of the oldest and most prestigious festivals of new music. “They had worked with composers like (Igor) Stravinsky, (Maurice) Ravel before the war, and after the war (Oliver) Messiaen and (György) Lagetti, but they had never done an opera before. Unbeknownst to them, they weren't going to get your traditional opera,” says Kievman.

They never did get Intelligent Systems. The opera needed more than the technology of the 20th century could provide to realize Kievman’s vision. Now the multi-media work has arrived. It’s “finally revised, updated and ready to be done,” says Kievman.

Intelligent Systems: The Surrender of Self in Mystical Contemplation gets its world premiere in the Little Stage Theater at SoBe Arts on Miami Beach on June 5 and runs through June 14.

“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do back then. It is truly a multi-media work and what it requires to work as a piece are projections that are almost as important as the singers and the music itself.”

While staging last year’s world premiere of his original work Fairy Tales, Songs of the Dandelion Woman, it dawned on him that the projections he required in that piece held the key to the fate of Intelligent Systems. He says he realized through the projection design by Alain Lores and with the advent of digital mapping that some of the more complicated, and expensive, requirements of Intelligent Systems would no longer present a challenge. “The digital mapping not only allows projections, but literally can map to every inch of the space.” The problem of elaborate costuming, too, which would have been prohibitively expensive in his original production (Kievman had hired well-known opera costume designer Robert Israel to create the costumes for his original, but the costs were astronomical) has been solved with the digital mapping, too. “Now we can put the singers in white costumes and digital map the costumes themselves.”

Kievman describes the 90-minute musical work as an integration of sonic and visual images. “The audience becomes passengers in a trip to time and space in a parallel universe.”

The composer/librettist storyboarded his creation as a series of natural catastrophies that occur over billions of years. There’s the development of civilization and a progression to a man-made catastrophe followed by a post-apocalyptic speculation about what a future species might look and act like.

"Intelligent Systems is first and foremost an opera, so even though there is this amazing story of traveling through time and space, the music is primary and what makes it an opera. The music is very intricate in that it follows this constant transformation of all the things that are happening, which makes it interesting and beautiful and even scary in some places.”

Six singers and 14 musicians bring Intelligent Systems to life along with a dozen or more people on the creative and projection team. Director Jeffrey Marc Buchman says there were many challenges in creating the world of Intelligent Systems inside the small space of SoBe Arts, but that his best decision when approaching the piece was to “embrace” the small black box instead of fight against it.

“When I read the story and thought of the kind of space we would be doing this in, I knew that we had to create something in a way that blends the singers into the projections. And there are so many things going on inside the projections as well, so I looked for something that would pull those ideas out. I did this with lighting, props and found a way to physically bring it into the room,” says Buchman, who knows a thing or two about how to work creatively in small and unusual spaces. He directed Andy Vores’ chamber opera No Exit for Florida Grand Opera inside the NoWhere Lounge, an actual bar/lounge, last March.

Buchman says choreography is also vital to having all of the elements come together in Intelligent Systems. “This is the kind of piece that has to take the audience on a deep journey. Part of that is in the movement,” and he credits choreographer Rosa Mercedes with her skill in working with the singers. “It is so vital to the piece in the way that they have to move.”

Kievman hopes that audiences who experience what he says is a “one-of-a-kind-theatrical event,” will realize that his opera reaches a degree of communication beyond the usual opera/music-theater experience. And 35 years after Kievman’s first attempt, his cutting-edge work could be part of the creation of a whole new conversation around what opera in the 21st century looks like.

“When we do these kinds of multi-faceted pieces, it really does redefine opera and it redefines where we’re moving towards as composers envision presenting works in new and interesting ways,” says Buchman.

Intelligent Systems: the Surrender of Self in Mystical Contemplation runs June 4 through 14 at SoBeArts, Carl Fisher Clubhouse, Little Stage Theater, 2100 b Washington Ave., Miami Beach. June 4 is an open dress rehearsal with the World Premiere opening on Friday, June 5. Performances are 8:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 305-674-9220. www.sobearts.org.

 

 

 


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About The writer

Michelle Solomon is a long-time writer and editor, whose works regularly appear in magazines throughout South Florida.

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About the Writer

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