I was mesmerized by Courtney Love, performing in Kansas City Choir Boy at Prototype in 2015. Moving around New York to find the best new music, it was a liberating experience to listen to the screeches and howls of opera singers, and see the great flashes of color and light.
I enjoyed going to 3LD and HERE Arts Center to witness theatrical blood was flowing through bathtubs and violins juxtaposed with enormous landscapes. I was comforted by the fact that opera could be more than a third-tier experience at The Metropolitan Opera. This year, so much was different. With theaters shut, artists have experimented with video and light in all-new ways, seeking distant solutions to still create that awestruck feeling. Music performed with absolute abandon warms the hearts of calculated New Yorkers, particularly now, as we step past our veiled exteriors, and journey within to find our sense of truth, exposed to the often frightening, outdoors.
An email late and a subway ride short from enjoying Helga Davis singing in Ocean Body, I gave up at the door of the theater, something I have only done at the movies previously. Feeling like a victim of circumstance, I returned to my remote screen to witness what this year’s Prototype Artists dreamed up for the Festival. While I missed getting a seltzer at the bar, and strolling into a traditional theater space, I continued by journey at home, viewing Modulation on screen.
My mind leapt to the topics of isolation, fear, and Identity throughout an interactive point-and-click world of Modulation. Opera from home can feel troubling. As a critic, I had to ask why. Most of the joy of appreciating opera comes from hearing brilliant acoustics while seeing larger-than-life performers. At the opera house, seeing the huge sets move in and out, and hearing so many singing in unison, the possibility of isolation is unfathomable. I remember the questions that came to mind after viewing shows at Prototype. When I see images of water, do I cringe, or do I feel the freest, wishing I could run into the waters? Do I want to drive past wheat grain, reaching out and feeling the sensation through my fingers? Do I want to be dazzled by stardom and blinking lights all around me, wishing I could be in a stadium at a rock concert, hoping for that one moment of connection to the sound, to the image, and the light?
At home, I sit for hours with my iPad Mini and my YouTube Music and my iTunes. My MacBook Pro feels like my best friend. With these tools, have I found the essence of what it means to see and feel and appreciate sound and image? I’ve wanted my MTV for so long that I actually find a sit-down “point and click music session” really new. Living with a video editor who later won an Emmy Award for his work in documentary television, I used to critique the screen image for a long time. I had every sense of sitting in front of a screen image, and saying what felt great about what I was seeing. Is it the timing? Is it the pace of your breath while watching? How does one image flow into the next, and how might we feel surprised or astonished by one’s life story, following a journey from one place to the next to the next?
Alone in the dark, I saw and I wondered, what does it take to make this moment? While some are journeying into the home, to find texture and movement with cloth or furniture, others see the objects around them, as some kind of relic. This year, there were so many requests of our time. Can we consider inclusion? Do we belong? And where? In Modulation, an artist reports his snide recollection of his homeland in Queens. The digital graphics and pop art were jubilant.
Are we only wanderers, seeking lost art, like relics of who we were before? What if our art seeking is so structured, that it becomes a daily practice? If we point and click enough, can we create better and better art in choice-making?
Music is central to our survival, and poetry can become the world’s work. If I could take in an hour, a second, just a minute more of performance, then how can I use the artist questions, posed in these five-minute opera videos, to become a better person? I point and click, and point and click. And there are options. There is variation, and so many choices to make about identity, about how to survive through isolation. It is still available through February 28 online.
For information about how to view Modulation, visit: http://prototypefestival.org
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.