No opera in living memory has had a cast of characters as distinguished or a subtext as depressing as Dave Soldier's "Naked Revolution." This high-tech multimedia extravaganza, which will have a final performance tonight in George Mason University's Harris Theatre, calls to mind another meditation on meaninglessness: Samuel Beckett's masterpiece, "Waiting for Godot." But "Naked Revolution" adds music to the mix -- music on the borderline between pop and classical styles.
Dramatis personae in "Naked Revolution" include such pivotal political figures as George Washington, King George III and Vladimir Lenin as well as two artistic revolutionaries: painter and chess expert Marcel Duchamp and dancer Isadora Duncan. Characters struggle, compete, strike poses, protest and dance in dizzying circles without ever reaching a clearly perceived goal.
Subtitled "An Opera on Immigrants' Dreams," the libretto by Maita di Niscemi is a stream of consciousness in which human figures assume a symbolic status, violence comes in recurring cycles, and messages pile on top of one another in heaps so tangled that ultimately meaning disintegrates. Perhaps that disintegration is the point of the whole exercise.
The production, entrusted to the university's Multimedia Performance Studio, is a triumph of special effects, projections and illusions. An image of a dollar bill is blown up to fill the entire stage; a whole chorus comes onstage in George Washington masks, a statue of King George III is melted to make bullets. Washington stands preaching on the roof of Mount Vernon.
The cast, under the music direction of Sybille Werner, includes countertenor Nick Sparrow in the role of Lenin, Anna Hurwitz as Molly Pitcher, and other solo roles sung by Peter Joshua Burroughs, Eric Greene, Loretta Giles and Alex Helsabeck.
-- Joseph McLellan