© 2019 by NEW OPERA NYC

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In Black Square, we follow the life of an average person caught up in revolutionary change, the humble heroism of maintaining one’s identity, and the price a person is willing to pay to adhere to a new “normal” in the context of social and technological innovation. In the first act, we meet members of an existing society: first, a happily married couple, Jane and John Doe; then a motley crew of outcasts, among them the man-pig Nero-Caligula, his beloved Violet (a mighty bearded woman), Malevolent (an ex-criminal), a Time Traveler, and a mysterious and harmless-looking creature Bih-Bah-Boh. Suddenly, an army of Legionnaires swarms through town. They declare war on the Sun, and the population eagerly volunteers to join the fight. In a monumental battle, the Sun is assassinated. In the second act, a new society is formed. The Memory-Eraser, a new technological marvel, works overtime to brainwash the citizens. Bih-Bah-Boh has grown into the Beautiful One, a Liberace-like charismatic leader. His followers, Jane now among them, only speak in abstract words and abbreviations. Unable to reconnect with his wife, John surrenders himself to the Memory-Eraser. He is reunited with her in a new state of ignorant bliss. The other outcasts defiantly survive on the periphery.

 

In reinterpreting this story, we fuse the familiar conventions and images of realistic stage action with the absurdist poetry of Kruchenykh. Our goal is to appeal directly to an audience’s intuition. Disguised by conventional stage presentation, the strange images and rhymes of the text can bypass intellectual analysis and instead provoke a truly visceral response. This principle is also at work in the music, where references to canonic operas are undercut by outlandish elements from other musical genres.  

 

The voluntary submission of the public will in Black Square is instigated not by the oppressive force of the state or a totalitarian ruler. Instead, it is the result of enslaving the collective social opinion. In Black Square, we question which is more important: the comfortable homogeny of the masses or non-photogenic diversity. To one person in our team this is a personal question. llya Demutsky’s opera New Jerusalem was cancelled at three venues in St. Petersburg. Because of its content, he was savagely beaten and issued death threats. This was the result of wide-spread nationalism and homophobia incited by the Putin regime, yet carried out by an average Russian citizen. Ilya has become an unlikely hero just by being himself—a passionate working artist holding on to his identity.