John Cage’s ‘Europera 5’ Offers an Avant-Garde Experience

The LMU Music Department’s Sinatra Opera Workshop program teamed-up students with faculty and alumni to deliver a truly avant-garde opera experience with their presentation of John Cage’s “Europera 5” from March 16th through the 18th.

The opera students were joined by alumni John Witt Chapman ’10 and clinical faculty member Wojciech Kocyan. Chapman is a Los Angeles based audio engineer, with experience working with celebrated composers like Hans Zimmer, and contributions to The Simpsons and more recently, Black Panther. Kocyan is an internationally lauded pianist, with Gramaphone magazine declaring his recording of Prokofiev, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff as one of the 50 best classical recordings ever made.

Cage’s “Europera 5” pairs operatic arias with a pianist accompaniment, but adds the twist of the utilization of a Victrola and sound engineer to create a disjointed, textured, and varied quality to the performance. Each night, the opera was performed slightly differently as the cast changed and their stage placements varied – each run of the show unique from the others in this way, complimenting Cage’s already unorthodox arrangement. Visual elements such as the fox and bird masks, an onstage digital clock, and dramatic lighting design with table lamps contributed to the opera’s nontraditional, innovative mood.

Photos by Jason Muñoz