Composer Zac Greenberg, who is already known for writing fusion jazz and rock music that is other-worldly, has teamed up with dramatist Michael Burnham to create a science fiction opera about space aliens, astronauts, nuclear war and the end of the world.
THE BRADBURY TATTOOS, based on the late Ray Bradbury’s short story anthology “The Illustrated Man,” will premiere at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 13 and 22. The opera is a presentation of concert:nova, a contemporary-classical ensemble founded by musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Partial funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
“The opera is about how people react to unusual situations,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg has composed music for Cincinnati Ballet, Blink! Cincinnati, modern dance companies throughout the United States, award-winning feature-length and short films, as well as multimedia and virtual reality programs.
“After David Bowie died, I was talking with Ted Nelson, co-artistic director of concert:nova, about how so much of his music was character-driven,” Greenberg said. “We wanted to do something similar, and then I started thinking about Ray Bradbury’s stories. We approached Michael Burnham to write the libretto.”
Burnham is a retired theatre professor, who formerly taught at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). He has narrated symphony concerts for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Salt Lake Symphony Opera and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, among others. His adaptation of Stravinsky’s “l’Histoire du Soldat”premiered at the Salt Lake Symphony Opera.
“Bradbury is not giving us cautionary tales here, so much as he is pointing out all the little things we want to and ought to hang onto and cherish as we struggle in our move toward a more just and loving world,” Burnham said.
Though the stories are different, they share a common theme of humans coping with a frightening future:
- “Kaleidoscope” – The crew of a disabled spacecraft reflects on their lives, while drifting toward death.
- “Zero Hour” – Children play a game called “Invasion,” which turns out to be more than a game.
- “The Highway” – A husband and wife who live near a highway help refugees fleeing a nuclear war.
- “The Last Night of the World” – A married couple goes about their normal routines, despite realizing that the world is about to end.
As in Bradbury’s original book, the operatic stories are woven together by an enigmatic character called “the Illustrated Man,” whose body is covered by animated tattoos.
“I feel that these are four really beautiful stories; probably some of the best from ‘The Illustrated Man,’” said Kelvin Chan, director. “Whether we are talking about the end of the world, or the atom bomb, or what it means to fall out of space after a rocket explodes, or Martians invading the earth through another dimension, these four stories really deal with how to be human.”
THE BRADBURY TATTOOS stars Ben Flanders, Thom Mariner, Pedro Willis-Barbosa, Melisa Bonetti, Jenna Schroer, Peggy Ann, Alex Schoeny, Kathryn Zajac Albertson, Dana Pundt, Thom Dreeze, Kelcey Steele, Naomi Lewin, Keisha Kemper and Michael Burnham.
The world premiere of “The Bradbury Tattoos” will take place at Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio, on Friday, July 13, at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and Sunday, July 22, at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $40 general admission/$20 students and are available at www.memorialhallotr.com or by calling (513) 977-8838. Information about “The Bradbury Tattoos” and concert:nova is available at http://concertnova.com/bradbury-tattoos/.
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