Philip K. Dick's Valis
(Vast Active Living Intelligent System) was made into an opera
by Tod Machover
in 1987. Machover's first opera
was commissioned by the Centre Georges Pompidou
as part of its 10th anniversary celebration. The premier was December 2, 1987. Released on Compact Disc
by Bridge Records
in 1988, Valis
was generally given positive reviews for its futuristic
and avant garde sonorities
. As time passes, however, the Los Angeles Times
unique negative review in 1988 may be the most accurate when it stated that Valis
"falls short of the intended, bold Post-modern statement and wilts into blandness and pretension." Valis
as opera is likely more interesting as a live performance with computer
images appearing on monitors scattered throughout the stage set. A live performance also requires that the conductor
eventually become one of the characters.
The work requires seven singers, a narrator, a pianist, a percussionist, recorded tapes, and numerous live computers. It is divided into 22 parts:
- Explosion and Overture
- First Narrative
- Fat's Sacrament
- Beach Scene
- Fat's Dream
- Loneliness Transition
- Dr. Stone Scene
- Dr. Stone's Aria
- Exegesis I
- Exegesis II
- Gesegnet Song
- Parsifal Narrative
- Finale I
- Valis Song
- Lampton Scene
- Suffering Song
- Mini's Solo
- Sophia's Scene
- Sophia's Aria
- Finale II
- Slippers Song
- Final Narrative
The stage set for Machover's Valis remained as an exhibit on the main floor of the Pompidou Center for several months after the inaugural performances. At one end of the floor was a wall of monitors, sometimes displaying imagery in sequence, sometimes fragmented. Glass covered wells contained other monitors that could only be seen by walking on top of them. It was a striking use of what were new technologies at the time.
Wager, Gregg. "Alla Breve." Los Angeles Times, 27 November 1988, Calendar Section, p. 76.
Church, John J. "Vast Active Living Intelligence System." Opera World web site at http://www.operaworld.com/special/valis.shtml / 21 March 2002.
Machover, Tod. Valis : an opera in two parts. New York : Bridge Records. p1988 (BCD 9007 Bridge Records).
Personal experience (visit to Centre Georges Pompidou in 1988).