OperaREVIEWSTom Williams

The Invention of Morel

Music by Stewart Copeland.

Libretto by Stewart Copeland &  Jonathan Moore.

Stage Director: Jonathan Moore.

Conductor  Andreas Mitisek.

Produced by Chicago opera Theater.

At the Studebaker Theatre. Chicago.

Virtual Realty video production not enough to save monotonous modern opera.

In an attempt to reinvent the opera-going experience the creatives at Chicago Opera Theater, patrons of the world premiere of The Invention of Morel are invited to experience the techno-world of virtual reality before the opera begins. (I didn’t partake).

In my view, opera’s essence is found first in the music that combines with singing to tell a story. I must confess that I’m not much of a fan of modern opera so The Invention of Morel left me cold. Composer Stewart Copeland, the drummer of the rock group The Police has fueled his music here as lacking melodies with a dark haunting drum-infused music that came off  as film underscoring. This stern music and the pedestrian  libretto by Stewart Copeland and Jonathan Moore didn’t help the singers with the lack of melodies.

The press notes state: “An escaped fugitive arrives on an isolated, strange island. While exploring his surroundings, he observes a group of tourists and quickly realizes something is not quite right in this paradise. Intrigued yet wary of these eccentric visitors, he begins to fall in love with one–a strikingly beautiful woman. He discovers these visitors are here at the invitation of Morel, a mad scientific genius, for the unveiling of his latest mysterious invention. When his heart pulls him helplessly toward this beautiful woman he must ask himself how much he is willing to sacrifice to be with her.”

Much of the opera features Andrew Wilkowske as the Fugitive and Lee Gregory as the Narrator. Both sang in a scratch baritone that often was in the bass range, For me it was hard to take. The music didn’t help and often fought the singers who were mediocre at best. Much of the music sounded like too much kettle drum.

To me, this musical surrealism didn’t engage me and quickly became tedious and over produced. It was a long 90 minute one act opera. I’m just too much of a traditionalist to appreciate surrealism in opera. The Invention of Morel could be a treat for lovers of modern, experimental opera? But traditionalist will not appreciate it. But since there seems to be an audience for musical surrealism, The Invention of Morel could appeal to their tastes.

Somewhat Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: February 18, 2017.

For more info checkout  The Invention of Morel page at theatreinchicago.com.

At the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan, Chicago, IL, call 312-704-8414, www.chicagooperatheater.org, tickets $39 – $125, Friday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, Fen 26 at 3pm, running time is 90 minutes without an intermission, through February 26, 2017.