A Morality Play In Four Ordeals
Nicholas Vines composer
Composer Nicholas Vines’ surreal opera Loose, Wet, Perforated comes to life in this Navona Records release. Commissioned by the Boston-based experimental opera company Guerilla Opera, and premiered in 2011, this recording coincides with a new production of Loose, Wet, Perforated that involves video projection and audience interaction.
The work, whose libretto was also written by Vines, is a satirical and metaphorical take on the medieval genre of the morality play. Described by Vines and Guerilla Opera as “American Idol meets The Hunger Games meets The Price is Right”, the story follows the trials of two protagonists, ‘Loose’ and ‘Wet’. As the aforementioned description suggests, this is no ordinary story. The morality play’s context is bizarre – Loose and Wet are competing to ascend within a secret organization, and at stake is the possibility of fame and fortune, or total isolation.
The staged production’s sets, costumes, and, in particular, video projection underscore the opera’s dark humor and absurdism. With these elements inaccessible on the audio recording, the listener is still transported into the opera’s world by Vines’ enthralling score and libretto. Of course, the narrative’s clarity in the recording testifies to the excellent vocal performances by Guerilla Opera’s Alana de la Guardia (‘Loose’), Brian Church (‘Wet’), Doug Dodson (‘Perforated’), and Thea Lobo (Various). The recording’s evocative scene-setting comes primarily from Vines’ instrumental score, which employs the unusual ensemble of clarinet, saxophone, trombone, and percussion.
This quartet produces an incredible array of sounds and moods, enabling Vines to convey every emotion of his strange and symbolic story. Perhaps the most memorable musical idea in the work occurs at the beginning and end of the opera, when, in accompaniment of expository text, Vines scores a web of moaning pitch bends for his three wind instruments. This material is particularly visceral and poignant, and helps establish the fact that, though lessons from Loose, Wet, Perforated may apply to our reality, the opera takes place in a world very different from ours.