Death and the Powers | Harris Theater | Classical | Chicago Reader

Death and the Powers Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., April 2, 7:30 p.m., Wed., April 6, 7:30 p.m., Fri., April 8, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., April 10, 3 p.m. 2011

Death and the Powers, the season opener for Chicago Opera Theater, has been generating a lot of buzz, mostly about its gadgetry. Composer Tod Machover heads the Opera of the Future group at MIT's Media Lab, where this new 90-minute one-act was devised, and he's put a science-fantasy spin on a very old theme: humankind's quest for immortality. Aging billionaire Simon Powers (baritone James Maddalena) cheats death by downloading himself into his environment, turning the walls and fixtures of his house into a collective entity called "the System," animated by his consciousness. His family—a daughter, an adopted son, and wife number three—are left to wrestle with his metamorphosis and all it implies about the human condition. Directed by the estimable Diane Paulus, with a libretto by former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky and production design by Alex McDowell (whose movie credits include collaborations with Stephen Spielberg and Tim Burton), Death and the Powers features a "disembodied performance" by a luminous animatronic set, a choreographed robot chorus, a 15-piece live orchestra, and 143-speaker surround sound; Machover is able to tweak many elements of the staging on the fly from an iPad in the audience. The production arrives here after largely well-received performances in Monaco (last fall), whence came its funding, and Boston (in March). See also Wednesday; the final performances are Fri 4/8 and Sun 4/10. —Deanna Isaacs

Price: $40-$120

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