Multimedia Chamber Opera About Chelsea Manning Gets MASS MoCA Showcase

Bradley-Manning copy(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – “The Source,” a multimedia chamber opera about Private Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning – who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified military documents to the public via WikiLeaks – will get a work-in-progress showing in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA on Friday, October 10, 2014, at 8pm.

Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning has many identities: adrift adolescent, emboldened whistleblower, traitor to her country. In this penetrating music-theatre work, Brooklyn-based composer Ted Hearne and director Daniel Fish dive into the media hysteria responsible for the many faces of the Army private who infamously leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

An ever-shifting chorus of silent witnesses looms (on large format video) as four singers descend into the digital mire. With computer-processed voices, they inhabit a fever-dream assemblage of Twitter feeds, cable news reports, chat transcripts, court testimony, and declassified military video (including “Collateral Murder”), asking how we, as individuals and a nation, confront the massive information which Manning brought to light.

Under the auspices of Beth Morrison Projects, the music-theatre event is a collaboration among producer Beth Morrison, composer Ted Hearne, writer Mark Doten, director Daniel Fish, and production designer Jim Findlay. In July 2013, Private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after publishing the largest set of classified documents to date. The conviction provoked a maelstrom of media coverage, ranging from portraits of Manning’s personal life to new dialogues about military abuses.

Set during the time between the initial leak and Manning’s arrest, “The Source” is centered on the instant-message conversations Manning had with former hacker Adrian Lamo, in which he confessed to disclosing classified material to WikiLeaks. It incorporates excerpts from the logs themselves and the media response both to Manning and Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. The written record, reworked into a libretto by Mark Doten, touches on a variety of topics ranging from the war on terror and abuses of U.S. power overseas to identity and the impact individuals have in the modern world.

Four singers turn the words of Manning and other characters into song, descending into the digital chaos of the incident by using live electronics to manipulate their voices as they weave together a feverish assemblage of Twitter posts, news reports, chat transcripts, and declassified military videos. A seven-instrument chamber ensemble accompanies the vocalists. Videos designed by Findlay and Fish integrate repurposed coverage and original footage of Manning’s incident into an immersive, four-wall video installation.

“The Source” combines musical and visual elements into an arresting production that reflects our frenzied consumption of data, how the media reflects and shapes identity, and how we confront the controversial information Manning brought before the public. About Manning’s controversial story, Assange says, “There will be a thousand more Mannings.”

Beth Morrison Projects is in residency at MASS MoCA to refine “The Source” before it appears at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival later this year.

“The Source” will be shown on Friday, October 10, at 8pm in the Hunter Center. Fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, and beefy burgers are available from Lickety Split before and during the event. A full bar serves Berkshire Brewing Company beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $10 advance, $15 general, and $22 for preferred seating. Members pay just $5. Receive a 25% discount when you purchase tickets before September 3.


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