Reimagining the Opera of the Future


Maria Baranova

Maria Baranova

By Anya Ventura

In the mid-eighties, composer Tod Machover came across a copy of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novel VALIS in a Parisian bookstore. Based on a mystical vision Dick called his “pink light experience,” VALIS was an acronym for “vast active living intelligence system.” The metaphysical novel would become the basis for Machover’s opera of the same name, which first premiered at the Pompidou Center in 1987, and was recently restaged at MIT for a new generation.

At the time, Machover was in his twenties and the Director of Musical Research at the renowned French Institute IRCAM, a hotbed of the avant-garde known for its pioneering research in music technology. The Pompidou, Machover says, had given him carte blanche to create a new piece for its tenth anniversary. So, throughout the summer and fall, the composer had gone about constructing an elaborate theater inside the center’s cavernous entrance hall, installing speakers and hundreds of video monitors.

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