It was not the project that Mark Campbell had dreamed of.
"It was actually Mason Bates, the composer, who proposed the idea of Steve Jobs as an opera," recalled Campbell, a librettist whose previous work received a Pulitzer prize in music. "And I went," Oh God, no. "Because my impression of Steve Jobs at that time was not very good … there were some very bad aspects of this man and I just knew them."
However, Campbell said when he researched the life of the Apple founder, he found his way into history. And he realized: "Mason was right. This is a good topic for an opera."
The resulting combination of Campbell's words and Bates's music receives its premiere in the West Coast this month when the Seattle Opera Stages "The (R) Evolution by Steve Jobs. "The opera jumps around in time – from Jobs as a child in 1965 to his death in 56 years in 2011 – while Jobs recovers formative memories as he meets his mortality. Each scene highlights what Campbell said, "another aspect of Steve Jobs and how we were informed by some of these events."
The opera already reached a milestone this month when the album from the original 2017 production of Santa Fe Opera won Grammy for Best Opera Recording, having received three award nominations. And for those worried that "opera" is a cruel euphemism to be locked in a windy end-of-hours building without a bath in sight, Seattle's production goes tight for 85 minutes without interruption – in part, perhaps a nod to the short Attention spans inspired by Apple's iPhones and iPads.
Campbell, along with director Kevin Newbury and baritone John Moore, depicting Jobs, recently joined me for a public program in the Seattle Opera's new Opera Center to discuss the turn of Jobs's life. with all its brutal brilliance, for operative art.
Not surprisingly, all three Apple users are. "I learned the whole role – sound and obviously the score – on my iPad," Moore said. "I control my playlist on my watch. I use AirPods in my ears … Steve Jobs is more of my life than anyone else in a way."
Campbell's affiliation to Apple, despite previous co-founder concerns , going back decades. "I had my first Macintosh in 1984 and it was at the kitchen table in my little East Village studio. And it was a marvel. I mean, I used to work in advertising and design, so I was just very attracted to this beautiful machine. He said.
It's particularly fascinating, Newbury said, is the combination of who Jobs was and what he could create. "There has never been a single gadget or art or technology that contains so much information about who we are, the kind of mirror of our soul who is our phone and computer, "he said." And then, how did that man think? "
The production does not seem like a word for word about what actually happened in Jobs & # 39; life – actually Looks libretto clearly that it is not "authorized or approved" by Apple or Jobs's property. Nevertheless, "everything is based on a real event," Campbell said. "Calligraphy class really happened. The acid in the field happened. Has Chrisann (Brennan, Jobs & # 39; boyfriend) pulled Woz (co-founder Steve Wozniak) and Steve while making the first board? No, probably not, but it's drama … it's all based on facts. "
Nevertheless, creating a work of art for a form where longevity is measured for centuries, not upgrading cycles for smartphones, requires Campbell to think hard about what to leave.
" We decided very early not to mention any products by name, "he said." We are talking about iPhone in the first song – the first big number is a product launch – But we're not saying "iPhone." We're not talking about the Apple One computer or anything like that. It would kind of date the language. "
Even Apple's business students get the quiet treatment. Microsoft is only referred to as" Seattle "or" the great M. "
The production itself is also a sign," the basics of the story, "Newbury said. The production, like the Apple products themselves, was creating something that was completely seamless, where form and content and function and artistry were hopefully completely married and inseparable from each other. "That, he said, means for single act opera, so it flows, "You can't really tell what is video, what is lighting, what is design, what is choreography, because the whole production is moving as a unit."
But if you get the impression that you are creating an opera about a cult figure, turned pop culture icon, it just means living up the Apple founder, light and dark is on The scene is not first and foremost primarily about Jobs as the technology's mythical hero.
"Put aside this myth, and what does he feel about Laurene (Powell Jobs, his wife) right now on his second date with her?", Campbell said. "How might he fall apart inside because he loves her ? That's what you do. It's a human story. "
" It is about a man trying to intervene to be a genius and to be understood and misunderstood, "said Newbury.
Returning through the opera, Moore says, is wrong. "We'll see how Steve fails in love. He fails in the business. We'll see him fail, so we can check on some of these things in a way that is more human than just, "Steve was a jerk and Apple wasn't working," Moore said. "I just think it really reduces him."
Moore hopes the opera resonates with those represented on it. "If anyone looks up to this opera, it will be Woz. Of course, Wozniak would check in here and be," I want to see what they have done, "he said.
There is another person he would like to see." would like to get out of the stage door, and this woman is kind of hanging out on the side, and she comes over and takes me, "Moore said. And it's Laurene Jobs, the dream, to make her say," thank you. " "
(" The (R) evolution of Steve Jobs "runs from February 23 to March 9 in McCaw Hall in Seattle.)