I never thought I would make an opera. But now I have.
In a few weeks time the above market square in the town of Monster will be transformed into an arena where fighters duel each other using their pet monsters. If this sounds familiar, it is no coincidence.
Mega Monster Battle Arena is one of 11 operas produced by Dario Fo to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Westland municipality. Dario Fo specialize in creating music theatre in close collaboration with the local community. They asked composer Daniël Hamburger to create the opera for Monster. The brief was to do ‘something’ with the town’s curious name, and to make it a production that would appeal to youth by referencing games culture.1
Daniël in turn approached me, since he had little affinity for games, and wanted the piece to not only be about games, but to be a game itself. So that’s what I helped do. By turning the game design principle of embedded narrative inside-out, we’ve managed to create a structure in which we can both tell a story using a script, and have performers improvise using game rules. Those rules I designed as a proper game. I could give you those rules and you would be able to play it yourself.
So there will be fights, and they’ll not be scripted. You won’t know beforehand who will win, and neither will we. There will also be a story, about a heroine facing off with a bad guy, in the best game and martial arts film tradition. Sieger M.G. was our third man, the piece’s writer. A rapper turned poet with a life-long games addiction, there could be no better fit.
What’s probably most exciting to me is that on top of the improvisational choreography of the duels, a live band will use a rule set of their own, composed by Daniël, that takes the game as it unfolds as its input to improvise. How’s that for adaptive music?2
It might all go horribly wrong, or it might become a wonderful spectacle. If you are like me and would like to find out which it will be, head to Monster for one of the shows. They’re scheduled for:
- Thursday 18 June 20:30 (tryout)
- Friday 19 June 20:30
- Saturday 20 June 20:30
Tickets are 15 Euro and can be bought at the venue. Once the show is over, I’ll post some more detailed stuff about the actual work I did. Stay tuned.