THE ELECTRONIC OPERA A Tragicomic Opera Out This May On Innova

The comedic drama features 14 vocalists, a synth-driven power trio, and special guests Del Sol Quartet and the Premier Ensemble of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

By: Apr. 22, 2024
THE ELECTRONIC OPERA A Tragicomic Opera Out This May On Innova
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San Francisco Bay Area composer Lisa Mezzacappa and New York writer Beth Lisick release their audio opera The Electronic Lover, a nine-episode serial story set in 1980s chatrooms, on Friday May 31 on Innova Recordings. The comedic drama features 14 vocalists, a synth-driven power trio, and special guests Del Sol Quartet and the Premier Ensemble of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

More than five years in the making, the opera was originally released as a series of free podcast episodes beginning in summer of 2020, and concludes this spring with the radio premiere of the final episode, on-air at WTJU 91.1 / in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, June 1 at 8pm EST. The program features an interview and Q&A with Mezzacappa before a live studio audience. (The final episode can be previewed here, pw: 4thelovers; please do not share.)

The approximately 4-hour work will be released as nine separate catalog numbers on the lnnova imprint, and will be available for streaming and download via Bandcamp, Apple Music, and all streaming services. The release also includes a pdf download of the full libretto.

Mezzacappa's work has been praised by NPR's Fresh Air as "slippery music with its own light-touch humor, sounds curling through time and space," while Artforum noted that she "has a knack for conceptualizing and articulating fresh ideas in collaborations across multiple disciplines." That light touch shines through in Mezzacappa's effervescent and edgy score, infused with '80s sonic and cultural references, and in the pitch-perfect libretto by Lisick, the New York Times-bestselling author of the comic memoir Everybody into the Pool.

The cast of The Electronic Lover includes vocalists whose careers as performers, songwriters, and composers encompass jazz, chamber music, opera, choral music, indie pop, ska, Afrobeat and art rock music: Karina Denike, Michelle Amador, Katy Stephan, Melody Jeune Ferris, Nikola Printz (episodes 2-6), Will Adams (episodes 7-9), David James, Sidney Chen (episodes 5-8), and Lola Miller (episodes 5,6, 9). In addition, a micro choir specializing in contemporary vocal techniques features star experimental vocalists Danishta Rivero, Aurora Josephson and David Katz (as well as Jesse Olsen Bay in episode 1). The musicians include synthesizer virtuoso Steve Blum and in-demand drummer/percussionist Jordan Glenn, with Mezzacappa on electric and acoustic bass. Lisick narrates. Guest performers include coloratura soprano Shawnette Sulker (episode 5); Del Sol Quartet (episode 5), and the Premier Ensemble of the San Francisco Girls Chorus (episode 9). 

The Electronic Lover explores the naive moment when we first invited computers into the most intimate aspects of our lives. The story is based on a 1985 article published in Ms. Magazine that described the thrilling, sordid dramas of an early online community created by a group of women techies who found a way to connect via the nascent chatroom community. Before trolls and Internet stalkers, before revenge porn or social media bullying, these women discovered the joys and perils of opening up their lives and hearts to the people they met online, while claiming agency over their own love lives, sexuality, and gender identities.

Lisick and Mezzacappa built out the story and characters based on interviews with Bay Area residents who were part of the region's own virtual community in the 1980s, called The Well.

The opera is scored for six lead female vocalists, three male vocalists, a three-person choir, three instrumentalists, narrator, and guests. Traversing many genres in the service of the storytelling, the music combines chamber art song with jazz improvisation, rock energy and experimental soundscapes. Operatic musical conventions converse with 1980s-era music technologies and pop culture references. A work that came to life in the recording studio and uses the studio as a compositional tool, the opera features virtuosic engineering by John Finkbeiner, Myles Boisen, and Eli Crews, and was commissioned by beloved Bay Area institution, the Paul Dresher Ensemble/New Performance Traditions.

Lisa Mezzacappa

Berkeley, CA-based composer, improviser, bassist and producer Lisa Mezzacappa has been an active part of California's vibrant music community for more than 20 years. Her activities as a composer and ensemble leader include ethereal chamber music, electro-acoustic works, avant-garde jazz, music for groups from duo to large ensemble, and collaborations with film, dance, and visual art. Recent projects include Cosmicomics, a suite for electro-acoustic jazz sextet based on Italo's Calvino's stories about the origins of the cosmos; Organelle, a chamber work for improvisers grounded in scientific processes on micro and cosmic scales; Glorious Ravage, an evening-length song cycle for large ensemble and films drawn from the writings of Victorian lady adventurers; and Touch Bass, a collaboration with choreographer Risa Jaroslow for three dancers and three bassists. She is a recipient of the Pauline Oliveros New Genres Prize from the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), and has been commissioned by the San Francisco Girls Chorus and Del Sol Quartet.

Beth Lisick

Beth Lisick is a writer, actor and storytelling producer from the San Francisco Bay Area, currently living in New York. As an author, she has published six books including the novel Edie on the Green Screen (2020); the memoir collection Yokohama Threeway and Other Small Shames (2014); the New York Times best-selling comic memoir Everybody Into the Pool (2005); and the gonzo self-help manifesto and national bestseller Helping Me Help Myself (2008). With a grant from the Creative Work Fund, she collaborated on a chapbook series called Tell You What (2012) with the artists at Creativity Explored, a studio and gallery for artists with developmental disabilities. Beth's acting credits include a role on the Emmy-winning Amazon series Transparent and lead roles in numerous independent films screened at Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca and the San Francisco International Film Festival. She does voiceover work for museums, including the Smithsonian, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and SFMOMA.


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