This year's manifestation of the Midtown Opera Fest — The Opera 901 Showcase — finds a quintet of short Memphis-specific new works warming the crowd for a production of Alessandro Scarlatti's irreverent 18th-Century sex comedy, "The Triumph of Honor."
The preceding 901 Showcase is about as Memphis as you can get without somebody grilling ribs on stage. The lineup of short works include "Formidable," which tells the story of a woman scattering her father's ashes in the Mississippi and hip-hop artist Marco Pave's dystopian "Grc Lnd," about a future outbreak of Yellow Fever and a rising tide of activism. "A Pretty Little Room" is technically set in Bolivar at the Western State Hospital for the Insane, while "Going Up" — originally created by Opera Memphis as part of its Ghosts of Crosstown project — tells the story of an elevator operator working for Sears. "Kayfabe" is subtitled "A Wrasslin' Opera," and unites libberetist Jerre Dye with composer, arranger, and old-school rocker Sam Shoup to tell the story of a pretty boy grappler called Face coming to grips with his personal demons and the big bad heel.
- Opera 901
"This isn't about an actual Memphis wrestler. It's not about Jackie Fargo or Jimmy Hart," says Shoup, a veteran of MTV's weird video vanguard band the Dog Police and staff arranger for the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, New York Pops, and Memphis Symphony Orchestra. "But it is set in the Mid-South Coliseum in the 1970s. And let me tell you, it ain't Mozart.
"I played in a lot of '70s rock bands," Shoup says, describing the opera's attitude and sonic texture. "This show is 15-minutes of pure fun."