The early Internet was a vast, unregulated frontier where users discovered totally new and unexpected sides of themselves. The opportunity to invent a new life and join a new community through an avatar revolutionized communication and social connection. This was particularly true in the cold, dark aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ishkhan, a young Armenian man, discovers a new side of himself through an online game community. He is more comfortable expressing himself as a beautiful woman in a fantasy universe than as a downtrodden man in a bleak home scenario. But how do others see him, online and offline?
ROLE PLAYING GAME is my new opera about love and identity online, premiering Feb. 22/23 at The Armory in Somerville, MA [7:30 PM].
Welcome to the Kickstarter campaign for Role Playing Game!
Role Playing Game tells the story of a young man in post-Soviet Armenia who reinvents himself through a massively multiplayer online role playing game [MMORPG]. The opera addresses themes of loneliness, alienation, gender expression, and the complicated relationship between traditional cultures and our new digital world.
Featuring a cast of four and a supporting ensemble of twelve, the music blends Armenian folk music and Japanese videogame music into the opera style. Specifically, synthesizer, Armenian duduk, Nintendo GameBoy, and digitally processed voice supplement a chamber ensemble of strings, clarinets, and piano.
Though many people are intimidated by opera, this project presents an accessible and entertaining 90-minute experience. The story is contemporary, and in English; the music draws on cultures from outside the traditional old-world settings of the famous operas. The production also features original projections behind the stage.
The protagonist of Role Playing Game, Ishkhan, creates an avatar that is everything he is not: bright, beautiful, free, and female. At first, this new online persona reinvigorates his self-esteem, but then he naively plunges into an unhealthy relationship with another player online. His mother, with great dismay, watches the game absorb her son; she worries how he will fulfill his role as an Armenian man, and she cannot understand the force the online world exerts on him. This opera embraces the astounding social opportunities of the Internet but acknowledges the dark, addictive side of anonymous online interaction.
I am producing the entire opera on my own, without a professional opera company or backing from an institution. The money raised from this campaign goes towards renting the venue, producing/recording the shows, and the awesome musicians who have dedicated much time for very little money. Additional funding beyond the goal is much appreciated and will go towards superior video/audio recording, additional performances in the future, and paying the musicians a fee closer to what they deserve. An $18 donation includes a discounted ticket to either performance.
//CORRECTION FROM VIDEO// The performances on Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 are open to the public. Thursday, Feb. 21 will be a closed dress rehearsal. [If you cannot attend the two perf
ormances but are available for the dress rehearsal, reach out to me directly and I will open a small audience section.]
This opera has been in development for over three years and I am so proud to present the finished product. Thank you for supporting new artworks that reflect our time. To reach me with any questions, comments, or just to say hi, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jacob Shulman, composer and librettist
Risks and challenges
It is difficult to record high-quality audio and video of a live opera without many microphones and cameras, but these tools are expensive. The balance will be recording budget versus amount of equipment. Smart placement and operation of the cameras and mics will overcome this challenge.
Editing and mixing these recordings will take time, but I expect to have a finished project within about three months.
Lastly, despite the passion of the small opera community, opera remains relatively unpopular, and often intimidating to outsiders. I believe in the music and in the story of Role Playing Game, but it will take some creative and aggressive marketing to draw people to the show. I will be pushing for press coverage, but it is tough to guarantee marketing success for a super-low budget self-produced opera. Please spread the word about the project to show listeners that opera can be relevant and accessible in 2019!
- (33 days)