Shara Worden's fascinating new opera, You Us We All | UNC Campus: Memorial Hall | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Shara Worden's fascinating new opera, You Us We All 

When: Tue., Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m. 2015
Price: $10-$59

YOU US WE ALL

TUESDAY, NOV. 17

MEMORIAL HALL, CHAPEL HILL—The last few times Shara Worden performed in the Triangle, she has mostly played the music of others: Sarah Kirkland Snider's Penelope with New Music Raleigh in 2011, her own composition with Brooklyn Rider in 2012 and Snider's Unremembered with the N.C. Symphony in April. But when she returns next week, she will bring the second-ever American performance of her largest, most ambitious work to date, the new opera You Us We All.

A collaboration with director and librettist Andrew Ondrejcak and Baroque Orchestration X, the opera riffs on the idea of the masque, a 16th- and 17th-century proto-opera that mixes music, dance and acting with elaborate costumes, lush tableaus and stories that often venerated the court. Allegorical figures would often be personified in tales of classical mythology.

Worden and Ondrejcak have latched on to the allegorical nature of the Masque and heightened it. The work centers on Hope (played by Worden), Love, Death, Time and Virtue, each exploring what happens when these archetypes break down. It's what happens when you infuse a Baroque court with the problems of the selfie era. "What would happen if Virtue is virtuous and then she gets a bit horny and finds herself at a strip club?" Ondrejcak asks. "What would it feel like for Love to be full of Death? For Death to be interested in rebirth?" They pray to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and they do shots. By the end, they're all stripped of their costumes and identities and forced to deal with much deeper questions about our place in the world.

Everything seems to be done in the service of this clash of centuries. The costumes are equal part Baroque court and Grace Jones, with hoop skirts, wigs, laces, and ruffles fashioned from loudly patterned fabrics. The instrumentation mixes aged instruments (theorbo and cornetto, viola da gamba and harpsichord) with modern percussion and vibraphone. Worden's music is equally fluid, too, splitting the difference between Monteverdi, Purcell and Philip Glass, but all rooted in her own wonderful sense of melody and texture—which, at last, we get to hear in person. 7:30 p.m., $10–$54, 114 E. Cameron Ave., Chapel Hill, 919-843-3333, www.carolinaperformingarts.org. —Dan Ruccia

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