New Opera Based on Mark Landis’ Forgeries

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Composer Eric Lindsay.
Gallery Exhibit.

The story of enigmatic art forger, Mark Landis, comes to life in the world premiere of the opera, “Ascription,” by Eric Lindsay (composer) and Tracy Truels (libretto). This interactive opera is inspired by the current exhibition “Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World.” The production will debut on May 7 at 7 p.m. with a repeat performance at 8 p.m. A talk back with the composer and librettist will immediately follow both shows.

The exclusive performance will be staged in the galleries of the “Intent to Deceive” exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Conceived as a series of short vignettes, the opera will not have a traditional stage but will instead take place throughout the galleries. Singers and musicians will be mixed in with – and emerge from – the crowd.

Librettist Truels says this non-traditional staging complements the con artist who inspired the opera. “Mark Landis played with expectations each time he donated a forged work,” she says. “So it fits that the audience will also encounter some surprises as the opera unfolds around them.”

The work takes on particular significance given that the OKCMOA will have a number of Landis’ forgeries on display during the exhibition. Those works will serve as focal points for scenes in the opera. “By staging the production in the space where Landis, himself, put on his ‘performance’ long ago,” says Composer Lindsay, “audiences will gain a unique insight into Landis’ motivations and process, something that will complement the story told through his works on display.”

Starring in the performance will be four Oklahoma-based singers with national reputations. Kelly Holst, assistant professor of voice at Oklahoma City University and lyric coloratura soprano, will perform the role of Brenda Stavlo, an exuberant registrar initially fooled by Landis’ act. Tenor Zac Engle, who recently performed with the Boston Opera Collaborative and Green Mountain Opera, will appear as Mark Landis. Courtney Crouse, assistant professor of voice at Oklahoma City University and mezzo soprano, will play Bernadette Lowe, an assistant curator who first notices something strange about Landis’ work. Baritone Rob Glaubitz, associate professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, will perform the role of the curator who is determined to expose Landis’ actions as fraudulent. While Landis’ life inspired the central role, the remaining characters are fictional creations representing a duped, confused and sometimes angered art world.

This isn’t the first time Truels and Lindsay have used the theme of reality versus illusion in operatic form. Their first opera, “Cosmic Ray and the Amazing Chris,” translated the grand opera tradition into the world of cosplay (costume play), with a story that moved between a costume contest at the Comic Con convention in San Diego and a fictional comic book world. Staged in 2014 by New Voices Opera Company in Bloomington, Indiana, the opera will be restaged this year by Thompson Street Opera Company in Louisville, Kentucky.

Remixing and style synthesis is a running thread in Lindsay’s works, which range from concert music to sound installation and film. In 2014, his music was performed in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his multimedia installation for the ADORNO Ensemble in San Francisco allowed audience members to move freely while musicians navigated unique paths through the performance space. An alumnus of Indiana University-Bloomington, King’s College-London and the University of Southern California, Lindsay recently joined the faculty of Indiana University, where he teaches courses in music for mixed media and music for film.

In addition to being a librettist, Truels is a published poet. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University and is the curator of education at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. She began working on “Ascription” prior to joining the Museum staff.

Due to the small galleries, only a limited number of tickets are available. Tickets are available for $10 for Museum Members; $15 for Nonmembers online at www.okcmoa.com or by calling (405) 236-3100.
– (published April 18, 2015)

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