6 Hours, 12 Countries, 250 Performers: ‘The Lunar Opera’ Gets the Virtual Treatment

By Estlin Usher |

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Promotional image for Full Pink Moon

These days, it seems like a lot of our lives are mediated virtually. Calling family, checking email, browsing social media, and participating in video conference calls. And many artists, musicians, and cultural organizations are taking to the internet to share their craft, with quarantine concerts and live streams from all around the world. But this might be the most ambitious undertaking yet.

Tonight, a marathon 6-hour performance will be held in an unexpected (but increasingly familiar) place: Zoom! The business-oriented video conferencing platform will provide the proscenium for performers of Pauline Oliveros’ postmodern masterpiece The Lunar Opera (the audience will tune in via Facebook, YouTube, or Twitch).

A collaboration between the University of Chicago’s Gray Center, CalArts, and Opera Povera, this performance is named Full Pink Moon in honor of the Pink supermoon that will grace our skies this evening. More than 250 musicians from over a dozen countries will take part, all interpreting Oliveros’ liberal and minimal score. 

Oliveros is known for pioneering the concept of “deep listening,” an exercise in paying close attention to the sounds around you that are usually filtered out as background noise. In The Lunar Opera, the instructions are radically minimal: no musical notes are written. Instead, each performer is given the responsibility of creating their own character and deciding what sounds to generate. The one primary rule is simple: each performer listens for and takes their cue from a particular sound that they have chosen, which, when heard, signals them to initiate or pause a musical or sonic idea.

What will this sound like? You’ll have to tune in and listen closely to find out! The streamable opera begins on YouTube at 8:00 pm CT, with a pre-concert talk at 7:00 pm CT.