Miroslav Srnka’s Space Opera in Munich
A glimpse into the not-too-distant future: In their new opera "Singularity," composer Miroslav Srnka and author Tom Holloway dramatize mind games about computerized people, updates, and human and technical malfunctions. Their opera is a fast-paced play with set pieces of the cyber world, combining vision with farce and a glimpse into human abysses. Specifically written for young voices, “Singularity” is their third commission for the Bayerische Staatsoper, specially written for the Opera Studio in Munich. The production for the premiere on 5 June 2021 in the Cuvilliés Theatre is by Nicolas Brieger, with conductor Patrick Hahn and the Klangforum Wien. The opera will be performed both live and as a live-stream. "Singularity" is the third opera by Miroslav Srnka and Tom Holloway for the Bavarian State Opera, following Make No Noise and South Pole.
What if things were to get really funny in space and with artificial intelligence in the near future? From the year 2045 onwards, some researchers suspect that computer intelligence will overtake the thinking capacity of humans; they refer to this state as singularity. In the opera "Singularity" Miroslav Srnka and Tom Holloway combine this vision with a plot about the consequences for human coexistence. The events: the Internet has recently been implanted in the human body. People can communicate both with their voice and by connecting their brains. However, after the last universal update, the first virus of the age spreads. A pair of lovers is also to be updated. She does the update, he is too lazy to do it. Suddenly he sees that she has been infected and her thoughts and secrets are visible to all who have also been infected. The people without the update, however, are isolated in a space station for research purposes, with special consequences and a surprising outcome....
How to compose an opera set in the future and in space, what are the musical principles? Miroslav Srnka describes the core of the story: "It is a piece about a split in our communication. This already exists today in the separation of our physical existence and our digital identity in such media as chat and social media etc.... "Singularity" is at the same time it is a composition for young voices, for a full ensemble with two sopranos, mezzos, tenors and baritones each, in which each character is cast twice: once for the real, 'analog' communication and once for the digital one. The musical design then follows the idea of a future perception, when our digital communication will no longer take place through devices like the smartphone, but through a direct link to a communication implant in our nervous system. And since it's a comedy, when the implants are updated, there's a virus followed by a digital quarantine."
In opera, the division into a digital and an analog voice results in a special way of dealing with singing, speech and speech noise, as Miroslav Srnka describes: "The voices demand all gradations from a full operatic voice to all kinds of extended vocal techniques to a free vocal artistry and even a very short acting passage. Everything is set up for young voices and their specific possibilities. We are extremely lucky with the casting through the incredibly good studio of the Bavarian State Opera. The flexibility, self-development and openness of everyone involved is breathtaking."
What is particularly important to Miroslav Srnka about this work? "When we came up with the concept of the virus and digital quarantine between 2018 and 2019, we had no idea how close this will be to our everyday experience today. It's amazing how it's only in isolation that we learn how lonely we actually are in the world of omnipresent exchange. Still, we went through with the concept of a comedy about these issues, even though I often doubted it. But laughter with tears - for which, after all, there is a widely abused emoji - can ultimately be the resolution of any tragedy."
In its treatment of very everyday communication, the subject also picks up on the small absurdities of living together: "It's a science fiction story, though I don't think it's absurd. On the contrary, it may very well soon be possible for us to be connected in exactly the way that futurologist and musical instrument inventor Ray Kurzweil described in a text accompanying our premiere. Both science fiction and comedy must be told as seriously as a tragic story. They are perhaps even more difficult to realize. It is always astonishing to me how underestimated and disregarded these genres are, both in literature and in contemporary music.”
Marie Luise Maintz
More Information: www.staatsoper.de/stueckinfo/singularity/
Photo: Wilfried Hösl