Philip K. Dick's Valis (Vast Active Living Intelligent System) was made into an opera by Tod Machover in 1987. Machover's first opera, Valis was commissioned by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris 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:

  1. Explosion and Overture
  2. First Narrative
  3. Fat's Sacrament
  4. Beach Scene
  5. Fat's Dream
  6. Loneliness Transition
  7. Dr. Stone Scene
  8. Dr. Stone's Aria
  9. Exegesis I
  10. Exegesis II
  11. Gesegnet Song
  12. Parsifal Narrative
  13. Finale I
  14. Valis Song
  15. Lampton Scene
  16. Suffering Song
  17. Mini's Solo
  18. Sophia's Scene
  19. Sophia's Aria
  20. Finale II
  21. Slippers Song
  22. 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 / 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).