Pretty Complex Stuff
January 25, 2009 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Leave Me Alone! a jazz opera by Harvey Pekar (libretto) and Dan Plonsey (music) will have its world premiere on January 31, 2009 at Oberlin College, presented in cooperation with Real Time Opera. The performance will also be streamed live.

Continuing the self-referential style of American Splendor (the comic) and American Splendor (the film), Leave Me Alone! is both a dialog on the trials of the avant garde artist today and "a non-fictional account of its own creation". Pekar and Plonsey are joined by their wives, and four Oberlin students in singing roles. Plonsey will also lead a jazz ensemble of Oberlin students. Robert Crumb and Anthony Braxton each phones in an appearance, too.
Amidst the demands and interruptions of day-to-day life, Pekar and Plonsey wonder, how can artists carve out time for their creative work? How do we cultivate a society that is receptive to the avant-garde?

"There ought to be a place for cutting edge work," says Pekar, who believes that many major cultural institutions have shirked their responsibility to support contemporary art and challenge audiences. "I thought there wasn't much out there being said about this, and I wanted to open up some discussion."

"People are gaga over Wynton Marsalis because he plays the old stuff," Harvey said. "Technically, he's a good musician. That's the kind of person making it in jazz. But I want to talk about the kind of jazz that people aren't listening to. It's important and people need to open themselves up to new experiences."
The view from Cleveland
The view from Jazz
The view from Comics
posted by Herodios (10 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Dammit, I'm busy at 8PM on the 31st. I would've loved to see this.
posted by Phire at 9:57 PM on January 25, 2009

Several members of the Oberlin Jazz Dept. are currently sleeping on my couch. I feel compelled to wake them up and demand to know why I had to find out about this from the internet. This is likely to be fantastic, so long as the music is well-written. The big Oberlin opera productions usually have really well-done staging and often good acting as well. The last big opera they premiered was Lost Highway, which had terrific sound and visual production but suffered because it was a bad adaptation of a bad David Lynch movie. If anyone lives within a reasonable distance, it will totally be worth the trek to go see it in person.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:54 PM on January 25, 2009

Harvey Pekar is doing a jazz opera?
Robert Crumb is doing a graphic novel of Genesis?
How wonderful and terrible it could be!
posted by the Real Dan at 1:41 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

> Robert Crumb and Anthony Braxton each phones in an appearance, too.

This also blows my mind. I wish I could be there. I'll have to make sure the series of tubes to my computer are clean and open that evening.
posted by ardgedee at 6:17 AM on January 26, 2009

Very interesting—thanks for the post!

/huge Pekar fan
posted by languagehat at 6:17 AM on January 26, 2009

Clarifying a few points:

The performance will be streamed live online. The link (off the main page) won't be live until the day of the show.

Both the stream and the live performance at Oberlin's Finney Chapel are free of charge.

You can hear an interview with Pekar, Plonsey, and Paul Schick of Real Time Opera, along with live performances of excerpts from the opera. The Leave Me Alone! segment begins around the 18:00 mark.

Crumb and Braxton literally "phone it in". They appear only by way of recorded telephone conversations with the principles.

Anthony Braxton, if you don't know him, is an avant garde composer and jazz saxophonist who sold about twelve records a year at his commercial peak in the 1970s. He was one of Plonsey's teachers at Mills College, and (I think) should be better known/respected.

Oberlin College has a long history of embracing this kind of project. One of my favourites is Anthony Braxton's Composition 82: For Four Orchestras, performed (mostly) by Oberlin Conservatory students and recorded at Oberlin College in 1978.
posted by Herodios at 1:34 PM on January 26, 2009

Damn it, if only I knew about this yesterday when I was interviewing prospective students/talking up my former college.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:30 PM on January 26, 2009

Someone had told me Oberlin was no more and I foolishly believed him. Thanks for the good news!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:31 PM on January 26, 2009

Oberlin recently also hosted Avery Brooks as Willy Loman.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:08 PM on January 26, 2009

Wow, Oberlin! I'm an alum. Good stuff.
posted by digaman at 9:06 AM on January 27, 2009

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