Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dan Kempson in Milwaukee's Hydrogen Jukebox

Dan Kempson in Hydrogen Jukebox
On Friday March 14th, the Skylight Music Theater in Milwaukee will present Hydrogen Jukebox, Philip Glass' opera set to the poetry of counter-culture poet Allen Ginsberg. The text deals with a variety of topics from the 1950's through the 1980's ranging from the sexual revolution, eastern philosophy, drugs, the environment, the threat of nuclear destruction, Iran-Contra scandal and meditation. The six vocal parts were thought to represent six archetypal American characters- a waitress, a policeman, a businessman, a cheerleader, a priest, and a mechanic.

Unlike other Glass operas that deal with social issues, Hydrogen Jukebox is sung in English. In other operas, he has used languages unfamiliar to most opera-goers, including Sanskrit for Satyagraha, ancient Egyptian for Akhnaten, Latin for the CIVIL warS, or just numbers and syllables in Einstein on the Beach.

Hydrogen Jukebox at Skylight Music Theater
The baritone lead in this production will be sung by barihunk Dan Kempson and directed by the brilliant Ted Huffman. As was the case when he performed it at the Fort Worth Opera Festival in 2011, he'll be showing off some skin, as you can see from the pictures.

According to Allen Ginsburg, "The title Hydrogen Jukebox comes from a verse in the poem Howl: "...listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox..." It signifies a state of hypertrophic high-tech, a psychological state in which people are at the limit of their sensory input with civilization's military jukebox, a loud industrial roar, or a music that begins to shake the bones and penetrate the nervous system as a hydrogen bomb may do someday, reminder of apocalypse."

Skylight Music Theater will perform the piece eleven times between March 14-30 and tickets are available online. The remainder of the cast includes Erica Schuller, Kristen DiNinno, Michael Scarcelle, Megan Williams and Ben Robinson.

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