A new opera project with longtime friend, collaborator and genius poet, Tracy Truels, has got me immensely pumped up. Cosmic Ray and the Amazing Chris is a lively, genre-traversing chamber opera about superheroes and the people who love them so much they dress up like them. Its plot contains two stories—a 21st century comedy set at Comic-Con and a futuristic superhero action-drama set within a comic book series—that unfold in parallel.
The Comic-Con story revolves around an unemployed 20-something introvert living in his parent’s basement, who overcomes internal and external barriers by transforming his personality into one that’s bold, courageous and outgoing when he cosplays (costume-plays) as Cosmic Ray, the beloved hero of a venerable comic book series.
The comic book narrative centers on the superhero, Cosmic Ray, whose dual persona (think: Clark Kent vs. Superman) causes him to question his true identity, as well as makes him feel increasingly distant from the people he’s sworn to protect. At the same time, his longtime nemesis, Retrograde, has finally discovered how to build a terrifying machine to destroy Earth and Cosmic Ray has proven unable to stop him.
The actors who play supporting roles appear in both plotlines, underscoring how the themes of identity and artifice vs. authenticity occur across both narratives.
This project gets me so excited not only because the libretto is just so damn clever and contains all these authenticities about comic book and cosplay cultures…
CHRIS and NICK make their entrance to the convention hall. They are stormed by several fans, taking photos.
FAN 1: How did you make those checkered leg cuffs?
CHRIS: Well, it took a lot of time.
FAN 2: Let me guess, the helmet…is that cold-war era?
CHRIS: Tak ti zat zorg! Or, as you would say in English, you bet it is!
FAN 3: Zon-targh lippi zetsing, dude. You are amazing!
CHRIS: Zon-targh lippi zetsing, Earth friends.
…but also because it gives me tons of opportunities to mash up and repurpose tropes ranging from psychedelic 1960’s-era DC Comics filmscores to more contemporary styles, like indie-pop and EDM. Plus who can resist the possibilities for translating a cosplay competition into staged drama? C’mon now—it’s just too good.
New Voices Opera is giving a public workshop of some scenes from Cosmic Ray in the Whittenberger Auditorium, Nov. 3rd at 7pm.