Opera Povera: Women, Desperation, and Recognition
by Rasi A on Aug 28, 2023
The Beginning of Opera Povera
Opera Povera began with a mission. With support from the Center for Cultural Innovation, a talented group of designers and performers was assembled. They wanted to create a one-act performance for the skilled vocal artist, Juliana Snapper. Their inspiration? The compelling work of composer Pauline Oliveros.
Juliana and the founder shared a passion for Oliveros’ composition, "To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation." This unique performance combined vibrant colors, sound, and political undertones from the 1970s. It was a tribute to two very different women - Marilyn Monroe and Valerie Solanas.
A Tale of Two Women
Pauline Oliveros was deeply inspired by the SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas, a feminist piece written in 1968. She wanted to capture the energy of the rising women's movement. At the same time, the world mourned the loss of Marilyn Monroe. These women represented different struggles. Monroe longed for recognition for her acting skills. Solanas sought acknowledgment for her creative work. In Oliveros' eyes, both were victims of gender inequality.
Oliveros’ piece wasn’t just about sound and light. It included acting-dance and acting-vocalise, inspired by a 1958 Los Angeles Times photo. This image showed Lana Turner with her daughter Cheryl Crane, who faced troubles with the law. This photograph depicted a young woman’s struggle against societal expectations.
The Cheryl Crane Connection
Cheryl Crane's life story is filled with drama and connections to the theme of the opera. As the daughter of actress Lana Turner, Cheryl had her share of spotlights. A year after the iconic photograph, Cheryl would defend her mother by stabbing Turner’s boyfriend. This act was deemed a justifiable action by the authorities.
On stage, Cheryl’s life is portrayed as an operatic dream. A rabbit shines, a turtle and hare story takes shape and fades. The scene is surreal. Amid shifting colors and a magical soundscape, the audience sees a girl waiting for her mother, hinting at a time of conflict and resolution.
The Artistic Vision
Juliana Snapper's performance takes center stage. She plays Cheryl, caught in Oliveros’ dreamy score. Other performers, like a spectrum, show the varied personae of Marilyn and Valerie. Pauline’s composition is a window into Cheryl’s life. It offers a glimpse of hope and beauty from a future Cheryl could never have imagined.
In the background, white sculptures float. On them, intense colored lights and a video unfold a slow, dreamy narrative. The audience is made to reflect on gender, societal expectations, and the infinite ways in which individuals can express themselves.
An Experience Not to Be Missed
For those in Los Angeles, this unique performance is a part of the REDCAT New Original Works Festival. This festival showcases various artists, and the Opera Povera’s rendition promises to be a highlight. You'll be taken on a journey through time, experiencing the challenges and hopes of women from different eras.
On a side note, for those attending, a stylish tiered dress might be a fitting choice for such an artistic evening. It combines fashion with a hint of drama, much like the stories being told on stage. Don't miss this opportunity to delve deep into the world of Opera Povera.