A New Opera For (And About) The Facebook Generation
Nico Muhlyâ€™s much anticipatedÂ first opera, Two Boys premieres this week (June 24) at theÂ English National Opera.
The result of aÂ collaborationÂ withÂ librettistÂ Craig Lucas in a production by Bartlett Sher, Two Boys has not even opened yet and already it has sparkedÂ serious debate in academia around questions asÂ profound as whether or not the internet is helping us achieve some cultural andÂ communicationÂ ideal or is instead turning us all into monsters.
Two Boys begins when a boy is stabbed in an English industrial city.Â At first, the police believe theyâ€™ve got their suspect, an older boy caught on tape running away from the scene of the crime.Â But further investigation takes the detective assigned to the case into a mystery involving cybersex, spy rings, andÂ chat rooms — a lurid, interconnected world she discovers but, ultimately, can’tÂ access.
Watch Two Boys trailer:
Muhly talks passionately about a new generation – Â living much of their lives online in a whole new world of communication with new technology andÂ the paradoxical paradigm created when kids are sent to their rooms to study quietly and instead log-on to social networks.
The question Muhly is so fascinated with (and believes parents should be too) is:Â what are this new generation of digital netizens doing in and with that world?
“It could mean getting in a whole mess of trouble orÂ completelyÂ expanding [their] horizons,” Muhly says.
Watch composer NicoÂ Muhly describe his fascination withÂ social media and youth communication culture, which, he says, inspired his new opera,Â Two Boys.
Muhly sees writing an opera that deals with the depth of the web and infinite systems of communication as a moral obligation.
Indeed, the questions raised by his new work are already being taken veryÂ seriously, not just among opera buffs, but also by social and cultural critics.
In a panel organized by the English National Opera, culturalÂ commentators Will Self, Norman Lebrecht, Claire Fox, and Muhly himself debate the question: is the web making monsters of us all?
Watch more video of this excellent debate on the website of New York public radio stationÂ WQXR.
What do you think? Are these issues that opera can or should attempt to address?