'The Tinder Opera' Creators Hope You Swipe Right On Online Opera

Mar 29, 2017
Originally published on March 28, 2017 8:38 pm

The first opera hit the stage over 400 years ago. More recently, the art form has been adapted to modern media: In the 1920s and '30s, operas were written to be performed on the radio, and in 1951, NBC commissioned Gian Carlo Menotti to compose Amahl And The Night Visitors for television.

Now, a company called Rainy Park Opera is creating operas for the internet.

The project started over a beer. On one stool: Adam Taylor, a young filmmaker based in Los Angeles. On the other: Scott Joiner, an opera singer working on his doctorate at the Manhattan School of Music.

"We had both semi-recently come out of long relationships, and we had both discovered, in our 30s, this dating app [Tinder]," Joiner says. "[It] makes dating so different from when we first started dating, before the millennium."

Joiner composed the music for and sings the lead in "Connection Lost: The Tinder Opera," an opera about a young man trying to connect through Tinder and failing. His character goes from scene to scene around New York, phone in front of him — just like all the women he finds.

Taylor, who directed and wrote the screenplay, says that the entire 11-minute soundtrack was recorded first, and the video was shot to fit. That turned out to be very handy for the singers.

"They're holding the phone in the shots, mimicking the Tinder app, and at the same time, the playback is coming through their phone, so they're holding it right by their face, they're able to lip-sync it," Taylor says. "Then we edit the film and we place the original recorded tracks over the lip-syncing, and put it together that way."

Heidi Waleson, the opera critic for The Wall Street Journal, says it "felt very millennial."

"It just puts opera in a different medium," she says. "And since that medium is something that so many people participate in, then why not have opera as a — you know — integral part of that medium?"

"The Tinder Opera" is scored for 10 female singers, two male singers, a pair of pianos and a string quartet. Everyone volunteered their services, so the entire budget was just $2,000. After the opera debuted last April on YouTube, a backer offered to pay for a sequel. With a cast dominated by women, Taylor immediately thought of The Bachelor.

"'The Tinder Opera' sort of talked about how the phone has devolved our ability to interact on a relationship level," Taylor says. "The television — or, more specifically, a show like The Bachelor — has sort of destroyed this idea of marriage, where, you know, two people can meet on a television show, and on the last episode they get married."

Much to Joiner and Taylor's surprise, Opera Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., staged "The Tinder Opera" this past fall. Next season, they're doing it again as a double bill with the sequel: "The Bachelor Opera."

"The operas that were written for television didn't mean that you never saw it in the theater again," Waleson explains. "The operas that were written for radio didn't mean you never saw it in the theater again. So, you know, the operas that are purely online — it's the same thing!"

A month after "The Tinder Opera" debuted online, the New York-based ensemble Experiments in Opera premiered five video works in a theater. And later this spring, a West Coast project called Vireo will release an episodic opera online and on public television. Scott Joiner is thrilled by the activity.

"We're all trying to integrate this old singing art form with a new visual film, television medium," Joiner says. "But the results of the few people doing it are wildly different."

Joiner and Taylor's next work will be ... what else? "L'Opera di Facebook."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's been 400 years since the very first opera hit the stage, and in all those years, the art form has adapted many times to modern media. In the 1920s and '30s, operas were written to be performed on the radio. In 1951, NBC commissioned Gian Carlo Menotti to compose "Amahl and the Night Visitors" for television. Now a company called Rainy Park Opera is creating works for the Internet. Naomi Lewin has more.

NAOMI LEWIN, BYLINE: It all started over a beer - on one stool, Adam Taylor, a young filmmaker based in Los Angeles - on the other, Scott Joiner, an opera singer working on his doctorate at the Manhattan School of Music.

SCOTT JOINER: We had both semi-recently come out of long relationships, and we had both discovered in our 30s this dating app...

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "CONNECTION LOST: L'OPERA DI TINDER")

JOINER: (As character, singing) Tinder.

That makes dating so different from when we first started dating before the millennium.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "CONNECTION LOST: L'OPERA DI TINDER")

JOINER: (As character, singing) What's become of the world I know and fleeting memories of boy meets girl - of face to face, not face to phone?

LEWIN: Joiner composed the music and sings the lead, a young man trying to connect through Tinder and failing - hence the title, "Connection Lost: L'opera Di Tinder." Joiner's character goes from scene to scene around New York, phone in front of him, and so do all the women he finds.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "CONNECTION LOST: L'OPERA DI TINDER")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (As character, singing) Hey.

JOINER: (As character, singing) Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (As character, singing, unintelligible).

JOINER: (As character, singing) Come here much?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (As character, singing) Little while.

JOINER: (As character, singing) Do you want to meet for drinks?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (As character, singing) Not my style.

JOINER: (As character, singing, unintelligible).

LEWIN: The medium became part of the message when they started filming, says Adam Taylor, who directed and wrote the screenplay. The entire 11-minute soundtrack was recorded first, and the video was shot to fit. Taylor says that turned out to be very handy for the singers.

ADAM TAYLOR: They're holding the phone in the shots, mimicking the Tinder app. And at the same time, the playback is coming through their phones. So they're holding it right by their face. They're able to lip sync it. And we edit the film, and we place the original recorded tracks over the lip syncing and put it together that way.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "CONNECTION LOST: L'OPERA DI TINDER")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (As character, singing) Come here often?

JOINER: (As character, singing) Unfortunately.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (As character, singing) Is your face covered in cracks, or is it just my screen?

HEIDI WALESON: It felt very millennial to me.

LEWIN: Heidi Waleson is the opera critic for The Wall Street Journal.

WALESON: It just puts opera in a different medium. And since that medium is something that so many people participate in, then why not have opera as a, you know, integral part of that medium?

LEWIN: The brevity of most Tinder encounters - deciding whether to meet someone based on their photo and then swiping left or right - is mimicked in the opera.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "CONNECTION LOST: L'OPERA DI TINDER")

JOINER: (As character, singing) Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #3: (As character, singing) Nope. Hello. What's up?

JOINER: (As character, singing) Nope.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #3: (As character, singing) Hello.

JOINER: Nope.

LEWIN: The Tinder opera is scored for ten female singers, two male singers, a pair of pianos and a string quartet. Everyone volunteered their services, so the entire budget was just $2,000. After the opera debuted last April on YouTube, a backer offered to pay for a sequel. With a cast dominated by women, Taylor immediately thought of "The Bachelor."

TAYLOR: The Tinder opera sort of talked about how the phone has devolved our ability to interact on a relationship level. The television - or, more specifically, a show like "The Bachelor" - has sort of destroyed this idea of marriage where, you know, two people can meet on a television show, and on the last episode, they get married.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (As character, singing) I now pronounce you husband...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #4: (As character, singing) Husband...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (As character, singing) ...And wife.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Anyone want to watch "Game Of Thrones"?

LEWIN: Much to Joiner and Taylor's surprise, Opera Carolina in Charlotte staged the Tinder opera this past fall. Next season, they're doing it again as a double bill with "The Bachelor" opera. Critic Heidi Waleson...

WALESON: The operas that were written for television didn't mean that you never saw it in the theater again. The operas that were written for radio didn't mean you never saw it in the theater again. So, you know, the operas that are purely online - it's the same thing.

LEWIN: A month after that Tinder opera debuted online, the New-York-based ensemble Experiments in Opera premiered five video works in a theater. And later this spring, a West Coast project called Vireo will release an episodic opera online and on public television. Tinder opera co-creator Scott Joiner is thrilled by the activity.

JOINER: We're all trying to integrate this old singing art form with a new visual film, television medium. But the results of the few people doing it are wildly different.

LEWIN: Joiner and Taylor's next work will be - what else? - "L'opera Di Facebook." For NPR News, I'm Naomi Lewin.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "CONNECTION LOST: L'OPERA DI TINDER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.