An opera focusing on the repercussions of an Internet-based society, composed by Gloucester's Robert Bradshaw, will have its premiere in the United States this weekend in a Boston performance.
The idea behind the two-part chamber opera,".Gabriel" (pronounced dot Gabriel) germinated during a family dinner at a mall restaurant when the composer observed teens seated at a nearby table with their food — there was no conversation, only electronic communication. Then the composer and his family walked around the mall a bit.
"What I saw was even more amazing. Teens were walking around and texting back and forth and you could tell they were discussing something through a satellite three miles up," said Bradshaw in an interview this week. "It started me wondering, what are we learning socially as a society? There are physical repercussions to these kinds of social interactions. There is no real emotion that comes with it. What is the ramification of a society that eliminates the responsibility of speaking to one another face to face?"
Bradshaw, during the four years of working on this opera, did research using social network sites.
"I experienced what it's like to live life that way. I also had scary things happen. I had really inappropriate things sent to me," said the father of two. "I saw the effect these sites were having directly on people I knew."
These experiences helped the composer develop the opera. The principal character is an unnamed young woman, who represents society and how it interacts socially. There are three other characters: Memory One, who represents a life prior to the Internet; Memory Two, who represents social interaction that the young woman is forced to have; and .Gabriel, who doesn't speak. Gabriel may be seen as a reference to the archangel, or the young woman's conscious or perhaps her personal communication device or a childhood imaginary friend.
"The concept is that (the young woman) is socially connected through the Internet. She has friends everywhere, but are they real friends? Does she know who she is communicating with and is she interpreting these messages properly? She believes it's safer and she can control her environment that way," said Bradshaw. "The enigmatic character of .Gabriel is performed entirely on trumpet — a unique twist for this age old art form."
The opera begins after the main character is already obsessed with the Internet. The first half of opera is positive, but the opera is tragic, said Bradshaw, who is also administrator of the Beauport Classical record label and owner andoperator of Beauport Press Music Publications. His other works have been performed in a variety of venues from Bangkok, Thailand, to the Lincoln Center in New York City.
Although the principal character of .Gabriel interacts with the other cast members, they do not come in contact with each other because a scrim represents the physical barrier —the computer screen — that separates the main character from the living world.
"I wanted to do something radically different. I had no idea it would fly," said Bradshaw. "My musical notes are half of it but the interpretation of others is the other major element. A lot of people have to work together to make an opera work."
The idea to create something new began when Bradshaw learned about the International Trumpet Guild's plan to hold a conference in Sydney.
"I talked to a couple of people involved in the conference and I said I wanted to do something not done on trumpet before, so I started brainstorming on ideas," Bradshaw said. From that small beginning, a much bigger idea was to be born.
His idea has been well received so far. The opera was released on CD, recorded by The Palmetto Camerata, and received positive reviews in such major industry journals as the American Record Guide and Fanfare Magazine.
".Gabriel" had its premiere in Sydney, Australia, last year courtesy of Opera Australia and the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra. ".Gabriel" also was awarded the Mainstage Award by Boston Metro Opera, which will be staging the opera on Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 at Hope Central Church, Jamaica Plain.
Gail McCarthy may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3445 or email@example.com.
What: "Paradise Lost, Paradise Found" (Operas by Bradshaw and Cipullo)
When: Friday, Feb. 25, and Saturday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.
Where: Hope Central Church, Jamaica Plain
How much: $10 at the door or online at http://www.bostonmetroopera.com/box-office tickets-for-gabriel.html