Popular consciousness has fragmented in the age of social media. The contemporary world is finding new ways to relate to the concept of heroism. The Decameron Opera Coalition explores the nature of contemporary heroism in the pre-produced three-part online opera anthology Heroes. Indie opera companies from all over the country participate in telling the tales of the contemporary heroism. Milwaukee Opera Theatre lends a Milwaukee voice to the final chapter in the series--Episode 3: Sustenance. Prior episodes in the series include “Episode 1: Answering the Call”--stories of those who have selflessly sacrificed and “Episode 2: The Long Arc” which explores the self-reliance and persistence of contemporary heroes.
The third episode is dominated by a diversity of operatic first-person monologues about the everyday heroes in one of the largest cities on Earth courtesy of New York’s Bare Opera. Director Malena Dayen and videographer Brian Gonzalez manage some beautiful earthbound images of Manhattan as various archetypes talk about their lives...an environmentalist, a sex worker, an aspiring singer and so on. The songs may have been recorded and mixed in advanced without anything in the way of incidental sounds of Manhattan, but there IS something kind of hypnotic about the illusion of everyday people singing operatically on their way from one place to another in the biggest city in the U.S.
Milwaukee Opera Theatre finds itself somewhere in between all of the slickly-executed production of Bare Opera’s contribution. The hip-hop-infused spoken word poetry of Britt Nicole. Britt is a relatively new voice in the local spoken word scene who had her first feature at The Brewing Grounds for Change back in 2013. Spoken word cleverly contrasts against the heavy drama of a passionate operatic program. I love mic-style spoken-word. I’ve performed a lot of it myself. (I met my wife when we were both performing on a poetry/spoken word open mic back in the late ’90s.) The often-overlooked performance style has to potential to add some depth and counterpoint to almost anything. MOT has made a bold choice in somewhat deftly sliding it into an opera program.
Britt Nicole gracefully speaks about the heroism of the Tricklebee Café--a pay-what-you-can restaurant in a food desert a couple of blocks north of Washington Park. As Nicole glides through her words, the lightly casual social atmosphere of the Tricklebee cascades across the screen. Music by Ms. Lotus Fankh lightly punctuates the edges of the words. Director/videographer Samer Ghani puts together what feels like a particularly artistic and inspiring 5+ minute promotional video for the community café. It’s more than that, though. It’s a celebration of the idealism of a restaurant that uses fresh, healthy, locally-grown ingredients to bring meals and people together.
Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s Home Cooked Heroes is available online now in Episode 3 of Decameron Opera Coalition’s Heroes. There will be a live online Premiere Week party for Episode 3 at 7pm Central Time on Oct. 7th. For ticket reservations and more information, visit Decameron Opera online.