Smile Politely

Tonight in Urbana: Ursula K. LeGuin

Tonight at Krannert, the world’s most famous feminist science fiction & fantasy auteuse will join Urbana’s Stephen Andrew Taylor for the world premier of his space opera fantasy Paradises Lost.

Canadian playwright Marcia Johnson wrote the libretto, based on Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story from The Birthday of the World. Johnson too will be on hand for a post-production discussion inside the Tryon Theater. The opera starts at 7:30 and runs 2.5 hours, so take a nap right now.

The musical score relies heavily on wind instruments, bells, and piano. It’s not “space music” of the otherworldy variety that you’d find in SomaFM’s Drone Zone, early Brian Eno, or Stephen Hill’s long-running public radio show. There’s far more musical theme, far less abstraction.

You can hear an early version of the entire opera on Taylor’s web page.

The story takes place on an interplanetary space craft. The ship departed its home planet 141 years ago. Of its 4,000 inhabitants, only the very young will live to see their destination. Many of them believe that “planets” are a myth.

The long-haul space travel theme has inspired some of the greatest minds in science fiction. Charles Chilton‘s Space Force, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s trilogy (especially Golgafrincham Ark B), Jor-El’s elaborate plan for Kal-El’s home-schooling in Superman. (Who changed the diapers?)

It’s heady stuff. That’s the point of good science fiction: It explains things that don’t exist, yet. Luckily, because opera singin’ can be hard to follow, the libretto will be supertitled.

C-U there.


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