Free simulcast of Dallas opera production promises multimedia, interactive experience

Science fiction and poignant family drama combine in Death and the Powers, a visually spectacular opera by MIT Media LAB’S TOD MACHOVER with a libretto by renowned poet ROBERT PINSKY, which will be streamed live from Dallas’ Winspear Opera House to Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall on Sunday, Feb. 16, at noon.

Admission to the simulcast is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available at the door [Online reservations are no longer available].

Billed as the first-ever global, interactive simulcast, the performance will be beamed to10 worldwide locations, from Stanford to Stockholm. Audience members will also experience live, enhanced streaming and interactive moments flashed to their mobile devices through Powers Live, a specially designed, downloadable app created by Machover and the MIT Media Lab.

The added content will provide audience members with the ability to virtually experience the main character’s thoughts and bring the sights and sounds of the live performance in Dallas within reach. Additionally, HD cameras placed throughout the set and on various electronic props will provide a “robot’s-eye view” and a more in-depth perception of the opera. Downloading the app prior to arrival at Bing is strongly recommended.

It will be a wildly different experience from the picnic-on-the-lawn simulcast of San Francisco Opera’s Falstaff that Stanford Live presented at Frost Amphitheater in October. For Stanford Live’s executive director WILEY HAUSAM, however, Death and the Powers is “a perfect fit for Bing and for Stanford” and he was eager to collaborate on the project.


Death and the Powers tells the story of Simon Powers, a powerful businessman (sung by baritone ROBERT ORTH), who wishes to perpetuate his existence beyond the decay of his natural being. Nearing the end of his life, Powers seizes his one chance for immortality by downloading his consciousness into his environment, creating a living version of his mind and spirit, called “The System.” He proceeds to use all his powers to persuade his loved ones to join him there.

The opera was named a 2012 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Music for both its score and the innovative technology created by Machover and his Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab. Described by the Wall Street Journal as having “passionate intensity, full-bodied arias in a post-organic world,” Machover’s 2010 work receives its Dallas Opera premiere in this production directed by DIANE PAULUS, designed by ALEX MCDOWELL and conducted by NICOLE PAIEMENT (artistic director of San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle and director of ensembles at UC-Santa Cruz).

Bing Concert Hall has hosted several multimedia events in the past year but “nothing like this has ever been done,” Hausam said. “It’s a unique, interactive performance and a form of media distribution that we’ll be doing more of. We’re working on another new large-scale video project for the 2014-15 season, so stay tuned for more details about that to be announced in the spring.”