Tod Machover’s visionary opera Schoenberg in Hollywood, will have its European Premiere at the Vienna Volksoper on April 9, with performances through April 24. (The premiere was originally scheduled for April 2020, but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The opera was inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg following his departure from Hitler’s Europe to Los Angeles in the 1930s. It was commissioned and presented by Boston Lyric Opera and had its hugely successful world premiere in Boston in November 2018. Schoenberg in Hollywood was praised as “ingeniously original” by The Wall Street Journal; “dark and brilliant” by the Boston Classical Review; “emotionally engaging…Machover’s lyrical gift was allowed to flow” by Musical America; and “a composer biography like no other” by The Boston Globe.
Tod Machover writes: “I am so pleased that-after a two-year postponement because of COVID-Vienna is the first place that this opera will travel after its Boston premiere, a great way for Schoenberg to be welcomed back home. I bet he would have smiled at that as well! That said, who would have thought that at this very moment, a brutal war would be raging only several hundred miles west of Vienna, with new refugees streaming into this city every day. Schoenberg’s message-that art must lead to action in order to mitigate man’s savagery-has never been more relevant than right now.”
In Vienna, the opera will be performed in English with German surtitles to accompany the witty libretto by British novelist/actor Simon Robson, based on a scenario by Braham Murray. This all-new Volksoper production will be directed by Helen Malkowsky, with design and video by Sophie Lux and innovative audio technology from Machover and the MIT Media Lab. Performances will take place in the historic Kasino, which – by coincidence – is right across the street from the Arnold Schoenberg Center, where Schoenberg’s archives are maintained and where a pre-concert talk will be given by Volksoper dramaturg Magdalena Hoisbauer before each show.
Machover’s Schoenberg in Hollywood reinterprets the composer as one of the most deeply relevant figures for our time and for the future, in surprising, comical, and powerful ways. At its 2018 premiere, the Boston Music Intelligencer wrote: “Schoenberg would smile.” Of the upcoming Volksoper production, Tod Machover writes: “I am so pleased that-after a two-year postponment because of COVID-Vienna is the first place that this opera will travel after its Boston premiere, a great way for Schoenberg to be welcomed back home. I bet he would have smiled at that as well!”
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About Tod Machover
Called “America’s most wired composer” by The Los Angeles Times and a “musical visionary” by The New York Times, Tod Machover is recognized as one of the most innovative composers active today, praised for creating music that breaks traditional artistic and cultural boundaries and for developing technologies that expand music’s potential for everyone, from celebrated virtuosi to musicians of all abilities. Machover studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and was the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM in Paris. He is Academic Head of the MIT Media Lab, where he is also Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and Director of the Opera of the Future Group. Machover is also Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and Visiting Professor of Composition at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Tod Machover’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s most prestigious ensembles and soloists, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble InterContemporain, Lucerne Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Ensemble Modern, BBC Scottish Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Houston Grand Opera, Bunkamura (Tokyo), Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Centre Georges Pompidou, Carnegie Hall, Ars Electronica, Casa da Musica (Porto), American Composers Orchestra, Tokyo String Quartet, Kronos Quartet, Ying Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Matt Haimovitz, Renée Fleming and many more. His work has been awarded numerous prizes and honors, by such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the German Culture Ministry, and the French Culture Ministry, which named him a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He was the first recipient of the Arts Advocacy Award from the Kennedy Center’s National Committee of the Performing Arts in 2013, and he was honored as Musical America’s 2016 Composer of the Year.
Machover is especially known for his visionary operas – as varied as they have been groundbreaking- including VALIS (1987), based on Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic and commissioned by the Centre Pompidou in Paris; Media/Medium (1994), premiered by magicians Penn & Teller; Brain Opera (1996/8), based on the work of AI pioneer Marvin Minsky and which invites the audience to collaborate live and online; Resurrection (1999), commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and based on Tolstoy’s final novel of the same name; Skellig (2008), based on David Almond’s award-winning novel and premiered at the Sage Gateshead; and the “robotic” Death and the Powers, released on SACD by BMOP/Sound in 2021. His most recent opera, Schoenberg in Hollywood, was commissioned and presented by Boston Lyric Opera, had its hugely successful world premiere in Boston in November 2018, and will have its European premiere at the Vienna Volksoper in April 2022.
In a wholly original and flourishing series of collaborative “City Symphonies,” Machover invites people of all ages and backgrounds to work with him – using specially designed online tools, smartphone apps, and public workshops and forums – to create a musical portrait of their city, by combining “normal” musical resources with sounds discovered and collected in that place. He has written works in this series for and with the cities of Toronto, Edinburgh, Perth (Australia), Lucerne (Switzerland), Detroit, and Philadelphia. Upcoming City Symphonies are being planned for Chennai (India), South and North Korea, and various U.S. destinations.
Machover is also widely recognized for designing new technologies for music performance and creation, such as Hyperinstruments, “smart” performance systems that extend expression for virtuosi, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public; the popular videogame Guitar Hero grew out of Machover’s group at the Media Lab. His Hyperscore software-which allows anyone to compose original music using lines and colors-has enabled children around the world to have their music performed by major orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and rock bands. Machover is also deeply involved in developing musical technologies and concepts for medical and wellbeing contexts, helping to diagnose and reverse conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, or allowing people with cerebral palsy to communicate through music. His recent Gammified for the Kronos Quartet and VocaGammified for Renée Fleming are examples of powerful healing sonorities embedded in musical compositions.
Having recently completed a solo cello piece-Sorta Voce-for long-time collaborator Matt Haimovitz, Tod Machover is currently working on a composition for solo violin and electronics to celebrate the Royal Academy of Music’s 200th anniversary, on commissions from the Bath (UK) Festival Orchestra and Sejong Soloists (Seoul), on revisions and revivals of VALIS and the Brain Opera, and on his next opera, The Overstory, based on Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Tod Machover’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes and Ricordi Editions, and has been recorded on the Bridge, Oxingale, Erato, Albany and New World labels. Much of his music is also available via iTunes and on Spotify.