We are accustomed nowadays to operas on contemporary themes. But an opera about Internet fraud? About the results of an electronic duel between a Nigerian email scammer and his would-be victim?
That is the subject of the opera Wired for Love. It has its world premiere on Jan. 20 in UW Music Hall's Rennebohm Auditorium with a cast of current and past UW students.
The scammer, named Okoro (countertenor Peter Gruett), sends out deceptive messages under an alias. One message reaches an online addict called the British Guy (baritone James Held). Outraged, the British Guy attempts to punish the scammer by sending back his own messages under a teasing female alias. Their relationship goes through a series of twists, in which their alternate personalities become separate entities themselves (tenor Daniel O'Dea, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Grace Sams, who also directs). They conspire to escape their originators and elope together.
An unusual plot, to say the least. Devised by librettist Lisa Kundrat, it has been set to music by the remarkably precocious local musician Jerry Hui - singer, conductor, composer, researcher, musical entrepreneur.
Born in 1981 in Hong Kong, Hui earned a B.A. at the UW and an M.A. at the University of Oregon, and in 2010 he completed a Ph.D. in composition back at the UW. A barrel of energy, he organized the early-music vocal consort Eliza's Toyes in 2007, and in 2010 the group New Music Everywhere. But composition remains his basic commitment.
Hui describes his compositional style as deeply rooted in early music, with a strong feeling for counterpoint. But it also reflects a diversity of influences, resulting in a "multiplicity of styles" even within the same piece.
His initial concept of Wired for Love was patterned on Baroque opera (lots of recitatives and arias, even a concluding chaconne), and he used a countertenor with Bach in mind. Yet there are also flashes of Broadway and other contemporary influences, and all are woven together in a completely approachable eclecticism.
Another alum, Ching-Chun Lai, conducts a small pit orchestra of nine local musicians (students, alumni, locals). Tickets are available at the door.