Opera...in Space!

This weekend, I went to Illinois to see Paradises Lost, by Stephen Andrew Taylor, with a libretto by Marcia Johnson, based on a novella Ursula K. Leguin.

Science fiction opera! I'm so excited that two different things that I love (reading science fiction and listening to opera), have come together.


Plus, they met in a work by a teacher who had a great influence on me. Taylor taught music theory at Illinois State University while I was a student there; he now teaches at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Paradises Lost was staged at the University of Illinois's Krannert Center this weekend.


I can't provide an unbiased review, but I won't let that stop me from sharing a few thoughts.


Paradises Lost is a very cool opera. I really liked some of the vocal melodies, combined with interesting rhythmic flow, and a great variety of texture (the orchestration is especially beautiful).

Here, just listen to some of it for yourself. Selections from workshop performances and partial stagings are posted online, along with more information about the story.


In the performance that I saw on Friday night, the acting, staging, and the music were also executed well. The techy aspects of the staging – screens and projections – were smoothly integrated into the production. Bravo to all!


And now, just a brief diversion on the subject of science fiction at the opera...


It's not the first opera set in space, as Taylor acknowledged in his notes. Paradises Lost is nevertheless one of a select few science fiction operas that I could find.Thanks to @Ralph_Graves and @Tom_Godell for their contributions sent in through Twitter.


- Aniara: A Space Opera in Two Acts (1959) by Karl-Birger Blomdahl. Read more here, including excerpts from the Time magazine review of the original production. And listen to a suite of music from Aniara:




- The Excursions of Mr. Brouček to the Moon and to the 15th Century by Leoš Janáček. Here's a new addition to the list, thanks to Lisa's post on my Facebook page. Like Dr. Who, this Mr Brouček travels in both space and time.


Le voyage dans le lune [Journey to the Moon] by Jacques Offenbach. This operetta is based on Jules Verne's novel From the Earth to the Moon. This tale was also the basis of the George Meliés film A Trip to the Moon (recently repopulrized through the movie Hugo.). Here's a sample: 



Il monda della Luna [The World in the Moon] by Franz Joseph Haydn. This one is a slight cheat. The characters never go to space; instead, they rather convince a gullible old man that scenes he views through a spyglass are actually happening on the moon. The libretto by Carlo Goldoni was also set by several other composers, including Baldassare Galuppi.


Have any others to add to the list?