Flash Opera

(originally posted to the C-Opera listserv)

by Barry Drogin

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On the subject of youth opera, I think I'll mention a recent project that a local writer friend of mine participated in. A composer/digital artist named Michael Szpakowski put out an open call for opera librettos for children's chorus and one or two soloists. The librettos had to have no more than 100 words to be sung, and he picked the five most appealing (to him), set them to music, recorded the results with a children's chorus he was working with, and then created Flash animations to accompany the "operas" - they're on-line at http://www.somedancersandmusicians.com/5operas.html. Apparently the children's chorus enjoyed the experience so much that they gave a live concert performance for the parents, as well. According to the guy's on-line resume, it was funded by East England Arts Awards for Artists and Epping Forest Arts.

The original "call to writers" for "5 operas" can be found at http://www.somedancersandmusicians.com/operaCall/index.html. The 51 submitted libretti, access to the scores, and other info can also be found on the "Credits" page at http://www.somedancersandmusicians.com/5operas/credits.html. Michael secured the "right" to post all entries, to pay any entrant $1 per word (up to $100), and to retain 50% of any further profits from use of the libretto. I would assume that any c-opera subscriber who desired to use any of the 46 libretti that didn't "make the cut" could expect similar, reasonable terms.

I have viewed all five realizations. Michael is also a talented graphic designer, and I like very much the way he uses different typefaces and Flash manipulation of the texts to go beyond a boring "surtitle" synchronization of sung words to visuals. I've seen some 3D poetry visualizations on the Internet, and plenty of interactive Flash and Java stuff, but have never seen anything like this before. It's not music video, it's not animation, it's something else, and I like Michael's experiments a lot. I encourage you to visit the site, if you haven't done so already, and provide any constructive feedback to the list or to him privately.

In particular, I could see a NewOp company using photographs of a production (or rehearsal), combined with clip art or special drawings (even set and costume design drawings), combined with Michael's text techniques and a recording of an excerpt from a new piece, to create a low-bandwidth non-video Flash animation advertisement or Internet experience of an upcoming or previous production. I experimented with teaching myself Flash programming a few years ago, and it's almost enough to make me want to try again.

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Last Updated: August 4, 2007