Pushing Opera Forward

The New York Review of Books featured the decades-long career of Anthony Braxton, emeritus faculty in music, who, as a MacArthur Award-winning saxophonist, composer and teacher, has made “substantial” contributions to jazz while remaining on the “fringes” of the genre. Braxton was honored in January with inclusion in the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Jazz Masters” list.

His latest project, which has been underway since the early 1980s, is Trillium, an “opera complex” in progress. The latest work, Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables), is premiering at Roulette in Brooklyn from April 17-19. According to the article:

The letterings—Trillium MTrillium J, et al—are not sequential, and can be reordered into new configurations by performers (or listeners). The opera-cycle’s acts are best thought of as sketches or Socratic-style dialogues. Characters recur, but their backstories and desires are recreated anew in each act (even within the same overarching multi-act “opera”). Sometimes, the Trillium universe deposits listeners in a boardroom, where marketing magnates are busy insulting the public; at other points, you’re traveling through space with a conquering race of arrogant intergalactic elites; in other moments, you’re looking at a child going off to college (while being privy to his parents’ fears about the widening chasm of inequality in America). As microtonal clouds amass and then disperse in the orchestra, Braxton’s singers enact their roles in his science fiction narratives, and deliver on his slapstick setups and ribald punchlines.