Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives

Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives

Performed by Varispeed Collective

Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 11:00 AM Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 1:00 PM Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 3:00 PM Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 5:00 PM The Point Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 7:00 PM Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 9:00 PM Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 11:00 PM Jig and Reel

Composer and performer Robert Ashley was often an essential presence in his wildly original, often bizarre modern operas. His phrasing, delivery, and mordant wit imparted a peculiar musicality beyond the meaning of his oblique language. His masterpiece Perfect Lives was created in 1983 as a video opera, a sprawling seven-part, three-hour opus. Its premiere was screened in the legendary New York arts space the Kitchen, and in a John Rockwell article in advance of the event Ashley said, “There’s no chance for me to do a piece of any scale in live performance. I’m 53 years old. If I were to wait for the Metropolitan Opera to give me a performance, I’d die first.”

an opera by Robert Ashley
published by Visibility Music Publishers
arranged and performed by VARISPEED

Please refer to Big Ears App Map for venue locations as well as the map link on the Festival Website

MARCH 31, 2023

In a small Midwest town, two traveling musicians and two local siblings hatch a plan to take all the money from the Bank across state lines for one day and then bring it back, thus performing the perfect crime… or a work of art. Originally released in the 1980s as episodes of a music-based television show, Perfect Lives is Robert Ashley’s enigmatic, energetic, and philosophical modern opera, adapted anew by Varispeed and narrated by the band and guest musicians live at seven different Knoxville locations throughout one day.

Raoul de Noget – A traveling singer of indeterminate age
Buddy – “The world’s greatest piano player”
Helen and John – Oldsters who have a special arrangement
Ed and Gwyn – Young couple who elope to Indiana
Isolde – Nearing thirty and not yet spoken for, “D’s” sister
“D” – Captain of the Football Team and assistant at the Bank
Dwayne – A friend who joins “D” and the elopers
Will and Ida – “D” and Isolde’s parents; Will is the local sheriff
Rodney – The bartender. His companion, Baby, studies piano
Jennifer, Kate, Eleanor, Linda and Susie – Bank tellers

Episode by Episode

11 AM: THE PARK- Krutch Park 504 Market Street
Raoul de Noget, a traveling singer, sits on the bed in a motel room overlooking a park thinking it over.
Aliza Simons (narrator)
Paul Pinto (drums, voice)
Gelsey Bell (synth, voice)
Dave Ruder (synth, voice)
Brian McCorkle (accordion, voice)
Saji Gopi (tabla)

1 PM: THE BANK- Outside US Bank- 607 Market Street
Isolde, Raoul and Buddy sneakily draw attention to the fact that The Elopers have taken all the money in the bank.
Dave Ruder (narrator)
Gelsey Bell (synth, voice)
Paul Pinto (drums, voice)
Brian McCorkle (bass, voice)
Aliza Simons (guitar, voice)
Alex Boone (trombone)
Jaydon Headrick (trombone)

3 PM: THE SUPERMARKET- Mast General Store- 402 S. Gay Street
Thinking about consumerism and wearing out, Helen and John (The Oldsters) are shopping on their day off.
Brian McCorkle (narrator)
Gelsey Bell (Helen)
Dave Ruder (John)
Paul Pinto (snare)
Aliza Simons (euphonium)
Alex Boone (trombone)
Jaydon Headrick (trombone)
Claire Chenette (oboe)

5 PM: THE CHURCH- The Point- 211 W. Fifth Avenue
Having traveled to Indiana, The Elopers find an odd Justice of the Peace, but his words contain more than they bargained for.
Paul Pinto (narrator)
Brian McCorkle (piano, voice)
Gelsey Bell (organ, voice)
Dave Ruder (synth, voice)
Aliza Simons (synth, voice)
Chad Melton (drums)
Vince Ilagan (bass)
Sophia Bennett, Austin Faith Nevarez, Jessica Watson, Kelli Turczyn, Travis Tench, Duck Ryan, Will Root (voice)

7 PM: THE BACKYARD- Jackson Armature Courtyard – 310 W. Jackson Avenue
Watching a picnic from the doorway of her mother’s house, Isolde counts the days.
Gelsey Bell (narrator)
Brian McCorkle (synth, voice)
Dave Ruder (metallophone, voice)
Aliza Simons (accordion)
Paul Pinto (harp, voice)
Saji Gopi (tabla)

9 PM: THE LIVING ROOM- The Loft- 133B S. Gay Street
At Ida’s prompting, Will, the local sheriff, goes over the events of the day.
Aliza Simons (voice)
Paul Pinto (voice)
Dave Ruder (voice)
Gelsey Bell (voice)
Brian McCorkle (voice, live processing)
Black Atticus (Will)
Caroline Whitaker (Ida)

11 PM: THE BAR- Jig & Reel – 101 S. Central Street
Rodney, the bartender, meets his match: the silver-tongued piano player, Buddy.
Gelsey Bell (narrator)
Dave Ruder (Buddy)
Aliza Simons (synth, voice)
Brian McCorkle (piano, voice)
Paul Pinto (piano, voice)
Chad Melton (drums)
Vince Ilagan (bass)

Please refer to Big Ears App Map for venue locations as well

Knoxville, TN · USA

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