THE UNIVERSE WITHIN
Awaited with keen anticipation, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, by composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell explores the spiritual evolution of one of the most influential men of modern times as he discovers the universe beyond technology within himself. Bates’ use of traditional orchestration with electronics has made him one of the most sought-after and widely programmed of young composers. Santa Fe debut artists include: baritone Edward Parks, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and bass Wei Wu, along with tenor Garrett Sorenson (Daphne, 2007). The stage director is Kevin Newbury (Oscar, 2013) and Michael Christie conducts through August 15; Robert Tweten will conduct on August 25.
INSTANT TRANSLATION SCREEN
1965. The garage of the Jobs family home, Los Altos.
Paul Jobs has built a workbench in the garage of his home for his son Steve on his 10th birthday, hoping to encourage his burgeoning interest in design and engineering.
2007. The stage of a convention center, San Francisco.
Steve publicly delivers a launch of his company’s new product—“one device,” that he claims will revolutionize the industry—while an ensemble reports on the product’s growing global presence. At the end of the launch, Steve stops, noticeably weak and short of breath.
2007, directly after. Corporate offices in Cupertino.
Steve retreats to his office. His wife Laurene enters and gently chides him for not taking better care of himself and getting obsessive about his work. She asks him to come home, that the children miss him. Steve agrees to, but first needs a walk to sort out his feelings.
2007, later that afternoon. The hills around Cupertino.
Steve walks in a kinhin and sits. The ghost of Kobun Chino Otogawa, Steve’s former spiritual mentor in Soto Zen Buddhism, enters and sits with him. As the two men gaze at the sunset, Kobun gets Steve to acknowledge his mortality. Steve traces the Sun with his finger in a circle and recalls a class in calligraphy at Reed College.
1973. Reed College, Oregon.
A teacher talks in class about the significance of the ensō in Japanese calligraphy as Steve looks on and absorbs aesthetic ideas about elegance and simplicity.
1973. The garage of the Jobs family home, Los Altos.
Steve’s best friend Woz has created a “blue box,” a device that duplicates telephone tones and allows the person using it to make free calls. After Woz impersonates Henry Kissinger and successfully reaches The Vatican, Steve and Woz celebrate the ease with which corporate Goliaths can be brought down.
1974. An apple orchard near Los Altos.
Steve and his girlfriend Chrisann lie together in an apple orchard. Chrisann admits that she feels a strong connection to Steve, in spite of his many eccentricities. They drop acid and Steve imagines the orchard coming alive, playing Bach. They start to make love when Kobun interrupts them.
1975. Los Altos Zen Center.
Kobun informs Steve that he cannot live at the Center as Steve had hoped, and in a parable, tells him that his destiny may be elsewhere.
1989. Lecture Hall, Sanford University.
Steve meets Laurene Powell for the first time and the two flirt with each other.
1976. The garage of the Jobs family home, Los Altos.
Woz makes final adjustments to a new computer interface and presents it to Steve. They begin to celebrate when Chrisann enters and privately tells Steve that she is pregnant. When Steve coldly tells Chrisann to end the pregnancy, she leaves in tears. Steve turns to Woz and demands that they design a computer that hides anything chaotic. They both dream about the future of their invention, leading Steve to remember Bach. He envisions a computer that is like a musical instrument—one that doesn’t play its users, but one that its users play.
1989. Steve Jobs’ home, Palo Alto.
Steve, on a date with Laurene, shows her his sparsely furnished home. Photos of Ansel Adams on the wall compels her to quote the photographer: ““I can look at a fine art photograph and sometimes I can hear music.” She challenges Steve by asking him if he feels as inspired.
1980. Corporate headquarters, Cupertino.
Steve’s ambition begins to get the better of him. He breaks up with Chrisann and angers Woz by denying a fellow employee his pension. Chrisann and Woz lament his potential downfall.
1981-1986. Corporate headquarters, Cupertino.
In this climactic scene, Steve’s egotism and drive for power increasingly result in cruel and unprofessional behavior at his company. He denies palimony to Chrisann for their child Lisa, and severs ties with Woz who quits.
1986. Corporate headquarters, Cupertino.
Steve is fired by the board of directors of his company. He becomes enraged and falls apart, walling himself off from the world.
2007. The hills around Cupertino.
Kobun reminds Steve that it was necessary to go through that difficult time to learn what he did—because he went on to do his best work and was ready to let someone into his life.
1989. Lecture Hall, Sanford University.
Very brief replay of Scene 8, when Steve and Laurene met.
2007. The hills around Cupertino.
Kobun notes that Steve then fell in love with Laurene, which is followed by a very short replay of Scene 10, at Steve’s house. Kobun then reminds Steve that Laurene also helped keep his ego in check.
1990. The Jobs home.
Laurene castigates Steve for denying the existence of his daughter Lisa and other bad behavior. She threatens to leave, but stays when Steve promises to change. Kobun then announces “and then you married Laurene…”
1991. Yosemite National Park.
In a Buddhist ceremony, Kobun weds Steve and Laurene before a group of friends. Steve sings a brief aria about his love for Laurene. Kobun mentions his own death in 1992, leading to a brief meditation on illness and mortality among Kobun, Laurene and Steve.
2011. Stanford University Chapel.
The scene shifts suddenly. Two large photos of Steve appear. Steve asks Kobun to explain the sudden change and Kobun tells him that he is now witnessing his own memorial service. Steve protests a few production elements of the service, but Kobun tells him to be still, to simplify. As a eulogy is delivered, Laurene muses about Steve’s legacy, that he will be both lionized and criticized, but that no one can deny his influence on the world. A very brief epilogue brings back the moment when Paul first presented his son Steve with a workbench “and a fine place to start
“[MASON BATES’] MUSIC HAS MOVED THE ORCHESTRA INTO THE DIGITAL AGE AND DISSOLVED THE BOUNDARIES OF CLASSICAL MUSIC.”
TERESA HEINZ ON AWARDING BATES THE HEINZ AWARD
INVENTING STEVE JOBS
He was brilliant, enigmatic and contradictory. His face was on billboards and in magazines, his products in our pockets. But when the opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs receives its world premiere at The Santa Fe Opera in July 2017, it will illuminate a side of Steve Jobs that we’ve never seen before. And it will do so as only an opera could.
Brilliant yet unknowable, Steve Jobs possessed a vision that seemed limitless. But only as his own life was ending did he find the means to look within himself. “In fact, Jobs’ search for inner peace is the story of the opera – which, in a sentence, is about a man who learns to be human again,” says composer Mason Bates.
An innovator himself, Mason Bates is one of the most widely programmed composers in the world, ranking second in professional performances among living composers. Audiences are attracted by the lustrous sound of his music – a spacious, skyward quality that suggests a world beyond our horizon. Bates is currently the first composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Together, he and librettist Mark Campbell have fashioned an opera that traces the development of Jobs’ spirituality through his relationships with five major figures in his life: his wife Laurene, his confidant Steve Wozniak, his girlfriend Chrisann, his spiritual advisor Kobun, and his father Paul. The past informs the present along this deeply emotional journey, during which Steve Jobs never leaves the stage. Bates has established distinct musical idioms for each character, and notes that “as they interact, their musics will blend almost like on a DJ rig.”
Mark Campbell, a highly awarded writer who has created the librettos for 15 operas, has structured the The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs with an almost cinematic story line that slips back and forth through time yet retains narrative coherence. We see Steve as young as age 10; the adult Steve Jobs, remembering the scene, looks on with us. The effect is like entering the consciousness of a mercurial genius as it matures.
In his work with symphony orchestras, Bates is known for combining traditional instrumentation with an expanded electronic palette and instruments from non-Western cultures. “The bigger your palette, the more dramatic you can be,” he says. “Imagine, for example the possibilities for bringing to life Kobun…A panoply of Tibetan prayer bowls and Chinese gongs drift across the electronics, sometimes sounding purely ‘acoustic,’ sometimes imaginatively processed as if in a nirvana-esque limbo. Think of how eerily beautiful those sounds can sound when supporting the mystical textures of a low bass voice.” Bates has also included the energy of a finger-picked guitar, an instrument that Jobs loved, to convey his inner restlessness.
In the title role, baritone Edward Parks is joined by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Jobs’ wife Laurene, both in their company debuts; tenor Garrett Sorenson, a former apprentice, portrays Woz; bass Wei Wu makes his company debut as Kobun. Stage direction is by Kevin Newbury, whose many production credits include the world premiere of Oscar in 2013.
Performances of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs will be conducted by Michael Christie through August 15; by Robert Tweten on August 25.
JULY 22, 26 8:30 PM
AUGUST: 4, 10, 15, 25 8PM