RedDust multi-media Opera 2007 (Revised Version 2015)
Commissioned by Meet the Composer Commissioning Music/USA, supported by Opera America and the Heinz Endowments
Mathew Rosenblum, composer/librettist
Video Artist Kurt Ralske (real-time video manipulations) http://retnull.com
Writer/performance artist John Crutchfield (co-writer, revised libretto)
RedDust is a superb multi-media work by Matthew Rosenblum premiered by Opera Theater at the Andy Warhol Museum in 2007 and newly revised with writer John Crutchfield. RedDust explodes the boundaries between traditional art forms, fusing acoustic and electronic music and video art by Kurt Ralske with dance and singing and speaking characters. It tells the story of a Chinese American writer in search of his creative impulse, and utilizes narratives from a traditional Chinese tale, Ts’ao Hsüeh-ch’in’s “The Story of a Stone”, and texts by Gertrude Stein.
The dramatic story is focused through the perspective of the central character, a Chinese author, Shi-yin. Shi-yin is caught in a crisis of conscience and is unable to write. He had an affair with a young girl that ended in her suicide. He tries repeatedly to exorcise his feelings of guilt and confusion, and to rediscover his creative impulse, by writing the story of a stone that comes to life as a young boy. The boy-stone is taken on a journey of discovery by the Taoist Fairy of Disenchantment. The mysterious Fairy of Disenchantment resembles the American author Gertrude Stein. The boy is led by the Fairy through life-defining experiences, confronts the inaccessibility of the future, the gulf between words and meaning, and the illusion of love, learning a lesson of detachment that helps author Shi-yin confront his own demons and set pen to page once more.
“RedDust,” composer Mathew Rosenblum explains, “will turn the typical operagoer 180 degrees because the work combines spoken words with singing, video on three screens and music played in surround sound.” The surround-sound audio component is comprised of pre-recorded and processed text and computer generated sound, but is also accompanied by an 18-piece orchestra.
The video component is designed as a live and interactive performance. Video improviser and collaborator Kurt Ralske, who has worked with the Merce Cunningham company and whose art graces the front lobby of MoMA in New York, has designed his own software that allows for a real-time improvisatory approach to video that easily reacts to live and pre-recorded music, as well as the live action on stage.
“RedDust shows flashes of brilliance… Rosenblum’s score was impressionistic, with the vocal lines floating above, minimalist and sometimes surprisingly tonal…a psychedelic wash over the dramatic continum…RedDust conveyed not only the confusion indicated in the title, but a sweeping emotional experience.” – Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 21, 2007
“Encountering Mathew Rosenblum’s opera ‘RedDust’ was a provocative experience Saturday night at Opera Theater’s world-premiere production at The Andy Warhol Museum…the many media serve to increase the density of Rosenblum’s compelling psychological creation about Chinese author Shi-yin, who is suffering from both writer’s block and remorse over a romance that ended with his lover’s suicide…Rosenblum’s score…was full of character, including lyrical beauty…Labels can be convenient because they tell us what to expect. Rosenblum didn’t want to play that game. His opera is a thought-provoking experience that offers different rewards than its nominal genre usually provides.”- Mark, Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 23, 2007