ROBERT ASHLEY’S VIDAS PERFECTAS
A NEW SPANISH-LANGUAGE VERSION OF THE TELEVISION OPERA PERFECT LIVES (1983)
STARRING NED SUBLETTE AS “R,” OR “RAOUL DE NOGET”
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ALEX WATERMAN MUSIC PRODUCED BY PETER GORDON
CO-STARRING ELIO VILLAFRANCA AS “BUDDY, THE WORLD’S GREATEST PIANO PLAYER”
INTRODUCING ELISA SANTIAGO AND ABRAHAM GOMEZ-DELGADO
SETS BY SARAH CROWNER • SUBTITLES BY ANNA CRAYCROFT AND EVE ESSEX
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: ZACH LAYTON • ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: EVE ESSEX
The first performance of Robert Ashley’s Vidas Perfectas, the Spanish-language version of the ground-breaking opera Perfect Lives (1983) directed by Alex Waterman, premieres December 15-17, 2011 at the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn.
With Ashley’s blessing, Waterman is directing an all-new live version of this “television opera” for the 21st century, from a Spanish translation by Javier Sainz de Robles. In its premiere engagement, this powerful, musically intense reinterpretation of Ashley’s now-classic text will offer “El Parque,” “La Iglesia,” and “El Patio de Atrás,” three of the opera’s seven half-hour episodes, in a theatrical setting.
The singer-songwriter Ned Sublette will star as the opera’s narrator “R,” who, in the role originated by Ashley, performs virtuosic feats of song in the Vidas Perfectas Lounge. Playing together with him is “Buddy, The World’s Greatest Piano Player,” a unique all-piano role for Cuban virtuoso Elio Villafranca. Composer Peter Gordon, who collaborated with Ashley on the original incarnation of Perfect Lives, returns as music producer, playing live electronics and mixing. The chorus is Elisa Santiago, (appearing as Isolde, Gwyn, and Ida) and Abraham Gomez-Delgado (ap- pearing as Will, Ed, and The Captain of the Football Team). Sets are created by artist Sarah Crowner, celebrated for her contribution to the 2010 Whitney Biennial. Artists Anna Craycroft and Eve Essex contribute video.
“I like the Spanish version because it moves it into a different sensibility,” says Robert Ashley, who initially suggested doing the production in Spanish using an already existing translation. He notes that the Spanish translation, so “different from that casual, vernacular thing in English,” brings exciting new possibilities. In the Vidas Perfectas Lounge, language is music, and the transformation into Spanish also brings with it what Ned Sublette calls “musical Spanish,” offering a hypnotic, rhythmically intense experience.
Perfect Lives was originally commissioned for television by The Kitchen (NY) in 1979 and was completed in 1983, co-produced by The Kitchen and Channel Four in Great Britain. It was aired on Channel Four in 1983 and in 1984, and subsequently on German, Austrian and Spanish television. Parts of the seven-episode series have been seen on American cable channels and in Japan and in Australia. It was also celebrated in Peter Greenway’s seminal documentary Four American Composers (1985). Perfect Lives’ innovative combination of chanting, storytelling, meditation and ecstatic revelation, challenges the ways in which we perceive the relationship between language and music. It has almost single-handedly changed the way we think about opera, television, and performance.
In 2010, Issue Project Room was awarded an NEA grant to produce a new version of Perfect Lives in co-operation with Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman. Vidas Perfectas will be presented in phases over the next three years, with the first three episodes premiering at Irondale Theater, Brooklyn, December 15-17, 2011. In 2012 the production travels to the Serpentine Gallery Pavillion and Cafe Oto (London), and to Marfa Ballroom (TX) where two new episodes will premiere at the Crowley Theater, and shooting will begin for the television production of Vidas Perfectas. At the completion of all seven episodes, Vidas Perfectas will tour internationally, accompanied by a full recording to be released on CD and DVD.