Death and the Powers
Composer: Tod Machover
Composer Bio: Tod Machover—called “America’s Most Wired Composer” by the Los Angeles Times—is widely known for creating music that breaks traditional artistic and cultural boundaries, as well as for developing groundbreaking new technologies for music. He is Professor of Music and Media and Director of the Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab, and is also Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Machover’s music has been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s most important performers and ensembles and has received numerous international prizes and awards, including the “Chevalier des Arts et Lettres” from the French Culture Ministry. Machover has designed new music technologies—such as Hyperinstruments—for some of the world’s greatest virtuosi, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, but also for young people, families, seniors, and the disabled. The popular videogames Guitar Hero and Rock Band grew out of this Hyperinstruments work in Machover’s Lab. His Hyperscore software—which allows anyone to compose original music using lines and colors—has allowed children around the world to have their music performed by major orchestras as part of Machover’s Toy Symphony project. Machover is also noted for his visionary operas, including VALIS (based on Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic), the Brain Opera (which invites the audience to collaborate live and online), and Skellig, which premiered to rave reviews in the UK in November 2008.

Whether it is creating genre-breaking compositions for the concert hall, “robotic” operas for worldwide stages, software that allows anyone to compose original music, or musical activities that can diagnose illness and restore health, Tod Machover’s unique vision is shaping the future of music, while producing work after work that touch the hearts of audiences here and now.
Librettist: Robert Pinsky
Librettist Bio: Robert Pinsky is widely considered to be one of America’s greatest writers, and has received numerous international awards and consistently been on international best-seller lists. He has been Poet Laureate of the United States (1997-2000), is currently poetry editor of the online journal Slate, and is also a contributor to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. Pinsky teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. He is the author of six books of poetry, several volumes of essays, and numerous edited anthologies (including the just-published Poems to Read: From the Favorite Poem Project). In addition, his book The Inferno of Dante, a new verse translation, was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry and the Howard Morton Landon Prize for translation. A Book-of-the-Month-Club Editor’s Choice, it has been celebrated by Stephen Greenblatt as “the premier modern text for English-language readers to experience Dante’s power.” Louis Martz wrote of Pinsky “the most exhilarating new poet that I have read since A. R. Ammons entered upon the scene. In his peculiar and original combination of abstract utterance and vivid image Pinsky points the way toward the future of poetry.” Hugh Kenner has described Pinsky’s ambition as “nothing less than the recovery for language of a whole domain of mute and familiar experience.”
Other Artistic Personnel: Diane Paulus (Director)
Alex McDowell (Production Designer)
Karole Armitage (Choreographer)
Gil Rose (Conductor)
Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP)

New Performance Technologies by MIT Media Lab
Original Cast: James Maddalena (Simon Powers)
Patricia Risley (Evvy)
Joélle Harvey (Miranda)
Hal Cazalet (Nicholas)
Frank Kelley (The United Way)
David Kravitz (The United Nations)
Tom McNichols (The Administration)
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: September 24, 2010
Producing Company: Opéra de Monte-Carlo
Description: Death and the Powers tells the story of a great inventor at the end of his life facing the questions of his legacy: "When I die, what remains? What can I control? What can I perpetuate?" His final experiment is one in which he passes from one form of existence into another in an attempt to project himself into the future. Whether or not he is actually alive and how that condition is expressed is the pivotal point of the story.
Character List (Major): Simon Powers (bar)
Evvy, Simon's third Wife (mz)
Miranda, Simon's daughter (s)
Nicholas, Simon's research assistant and adopted son (t) The United Way (countertenor)
The United Nations (bar)
The Administration (b)
Comments: This work was formerly known as The Voice
Video Clip:
Length: Length is not available.
Total Acts: Not Available
Orchestration: Small ensemble, ca.10 players: 5 strings, 3 winds, 1 percussion, 1 keyboard located in the pit

Additionally, the opera will showcase the first-ever use of sonic animatronics (“sonitronics”), or physical, sculptural elements, such as a robotic “Chandelier” which is both a beautiful, compelling object as well as a subtle, resonant musical instrument. Its string-like surfaces are vibrated via electromagnets by a musician remotely while at the same time being plucked, strummed and damped directly by an onstage performer.
Musical Style: The music of Death and the Powers will represent a bold step forward towards a new kind of opera. Innovative disembodied performance techniques will be designed especially for this work, especially for Simon whose performance will mostly tak
Contact: Tod Machover
E-mail Address:
Composer Web Site:
Schedule of Performances Listings
Death and the Powers (Machover)
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - Dallas Opera
Death and the Powers (Machover)
Saturday, April 2, 2011 - Chicago Opera Theater
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