Menagerie is my in-progress music drama, with a libretto by Linc and Lee Taiz, based on Gene Roddenberry’s 2-hour teleplay (Star Trek Episode 16: “The Menagerie” parts 1 & 2, incorporating a pilot episode “The Cage”). With permission from CBS Television, we are developing the opera for select non-commercial presentations in 2011-2012.
Our story (synopsis below) differs a little from the 1966 episode: Women characters are centralized and developed as leading roles for lyric and coloratura soprano, and we’ve extended one of the core elements of the plot—induced hallucinations that are as persuasive as real experience—to reflect contemporary notions of virtual reality. However, our opera maintains one of Star Trek’s most compelling emotional landscapes: that of Spock’s evolving ego in his human surroundings. Propelling and supporting these themes, the music in our production brings together pop romanticism with porous improvisation, and alternates free-floating rhythm with layers of synchronic pulse. [Hear and discuss the sketches.]
Synopsis: Lieutenant Commander Spock, a half-human, half-vulcan Federation Starfleet science officer, abducts his former captain, the gravely injured Christopher Pike, and commits mutiny on the Starship Enterprise, setting its course for a forbidden region of the galaxy. Pike is acutely aware of his surroundings, but fully paralyzed and mute; he can’t resist Spock or articulate despair at what lies ahead. And yet, through a brain imaging device, the impulses of his active mind—anxiety, peace, repulsion, or desire—are projected on a screen above his still body.
The Vulcan Commander Tor, a presiding officer where Pike was hospitalized, is distraught at Pike’s disappearance, and Spock’s deception. She immediately joins James T. Kirk—Spock’s current captain, and a flame from her past—to chase the Enterprise in a smaller craft. When they overcome the ship and are brought aboard, Spock submits himself for arrest, but he will not release the ship from a locked guidance system that somehow resists all intervention. While they speed toward an uncertain fate, Spock insists on an immediate trial for the crimes of mutiny and high treason.
In his own defense, Spock tells of Pike’s attempts, long ago, to rescue a band of humans lost on Talos IV, a planet in the unknown region that lies before them. The planet’s inhabitants are longtime enemies of the federation, and can produce powerful illusions drawn from an adversary’s own psyche. Spock supports his story with a strange and dubious holographic record of Pike as a younger man on Talos, lured into conflict against his own memories, nightmares, and delusions, now rendered life-like and limitless. At the core of his struggle is the figure of Vina: an erotic figment of his imagination, to be rescued like Euridice from an underworld… but perhaps also a real person from Pike’s youth, whose hidden initiative could restore the elder Pike to a virtual body and renewed life.
The trial entangles its witnesses in mixtures of truth and fiction, and challenges Spock’s notions of reality, loyalty, and conscience. The elder Pike experiences his own story anew with wordless flows and ruptures of brain activity that grow ever more intense, while Kirk and Tor struggle to make sense of a slowly unfolding past and future. —BLC
Sketches from my notebook for the opera are below. My recordings are rough, with mixtures of live and MIDI instruments. Best to listen with headphones or high-output speakers.
The first three posts below contain instrumental sketches of emotional worlds…though I have connected them to specific moments in the story, this music will be subject to transformation and return in a variety of situations.
The post(s) below are/will be scratch recordings of actual scene excerpts.
Ideas? Complaints? Let me know what you think…your listening makes a difference to my process.