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BWW Review: (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS by Bates and Campbell under Zvulun Closes the Circle on Apple's Creation

Atlanta Opera’s STEVE JOBS with Michael Christie leading John Moore as Jobs, Sarah Larsen as his wife, Bille Bruley as Wozniak and Adam Lau as Kobun

BWW Review: (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS by Bates and Campbell under Zvulun Closes the Circle on Apple's Creation
Adam Lau and John Moore.
Photo: Ken Howard

On Saturday night, Version 2.0 of the Mason Bates-Mark Campbell opera, THE (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS, opened brilliantly as a mainstage production of the Atlanta Opera, in its East Coast premiere, under Tomer Zvulun's taut direction and Michael Christie's smart baton. To say the audience greeted the work joyfully would be an understatement.

It's a production that humanizes the protagonist without making him into a silly putty version of the brilliantly creative, decidedly intuitive yet often mean-spirited man who changed the face of personal computing, telephonics and communications in general.

I say that this is Version 2.0 of the work is because the original production started life less than five years ago at the Santa Fe Opera in a glitzier mood, which helped win the opera's recording a Grammy. In many ways it's the same opera, about the same character, with a little changed score and libretto.

Yet, it's not the same. It has certainly connected the dots in the story of Jobs. The result is that Zvulun's production--which started life at the Austin Opera before going to Kansas City Lyric Opera and now Atlanta, before making other stops-has managed to humanize him, at least to my eyes.

BWW Review: (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS by Bates and Campbell under Zvulun Closes the Circle on Apple's Creation
John Moore and Bille Bruley.
Photo: Ken Howard

Here, we see Jobs as more of a man, the good and the bad of him, in a delicate balancing act. That is no small accomplishment, by the way, because everyone has their perceptions of the myth of Jobs.

With its compelling score by Bates that combines the melodic and the technologic, the driving and the calm, the sound and the solemn, it melds with the libretto, created by Campbell. That consists of a series of vignettes that jump back and forth in Jobs' life-one that is not linear at all but circular--and show the human part of the man's story, which was important to his philosophical growth.

BWW Review: (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS by Bates and Campbell under Zvulun Closes the Circle on Apple's Creation
John Moore. Photo: Ken Howard

At the opening, the fine cast brought the material to life, working with the carefully wrought creative work of Bates and Campbell to make it sing in all senses of the word. There were first-rate performances, including John Moore as Jobs, driven and visionary, with his forceful baritone; and mezzo Sarah Larsen as his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, who taught him much about life, using a luxurious voice.

Joining them in other major roles were tenor Bille Bruley as his technology co-conspirator Steve Wozniak, a good vocal and dramatic contrast as techie to the more artistic side of Jobs; soprano Elizabeth Sutphen as his clueless early lover, Chrisann, mother of his daughter; and, most assuredly, bass Adam Lau as his Buddhist spiritual guide, Kobun, who was alive to Jobs even after his physical death.

BWW Review: (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS by Bates and Campbell under Zvulun Closes the Circle on Apple's Creation
Adam Lau and John Moore.
Photo: Ken Howard

Working with the creators' material, the director and conductor helped the cast turn the story of this life, which might have been somewhat repulsive in lesser hands-Jobs could become ugly on a dime, e.g., denying his fatherhood of his girlfriend's child--turn out smartly.

It did that by returning to some of Campbell's original intentions in his libretto, under the careful hands of Zvulun (he's also the company's general and artistic director) and his creative team: conductor Michael Christie; scenic and costume designer Jacob A. Climer, who came up with some clever scenic effects for the multi-level set; projections designer S. Katy Tucker; and lighting designer Robert Wierzel.

Together, all the pieces of the production connect the dots of the technology wizard's journey, looking backward, as Jobs once said in a commencement speech at Stanford, "You have to trust that the dots [in your past] will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something-your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach never let me down and has made all the differences in my life."

You can trust in THE (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS to give you a rich experience in contemporary opera.

For information about tickets for the remaining performances at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, see the Atlanta Opera's website. In addition, the opera will be live-streamed, using the Atlanta Opera's eight-camera system, to your preferred device on May 6. It can be pre-ordered for $19.99.



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From This Author - Richard Sasanow