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Steve Jobs is About to Get His Own Opera

But will it include a singing Woz?

Jobs holds up an iPhone 4 at a tech conference in 2010. (Matt Yohe/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
smithsonian.com

He's known more for his tech innovation than his singing, but that doesn't mean Steve Jobs can't get the operatic treatment. As Russell Contreras reports for the Associated Press, a new opera, tentatively titled The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, is scheduled to premiere at the Santa Fe Opera in 2017.

According to a release, composer Mason Bates is slated to write the music, with lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell. The story will follow Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, as he looks back on his life and influences, writes Contreras. It will cover his tumultuous personal life and, according to the release, capture "the buzzing creative realm of Silicon Valley with a kinetic electro-acoustic score."

Plenty of other public figures and real-life events have received the operatic treatment. Iconic turn-of-the-century composer Giuseppe Verdi drew in part from Egyptian history for his classic Aida, but more recently such pieces have leaned more on tabloids than history books. A tragicomic opera about the rise and fall of Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith premiered at the New York City Opera in 2013, and an opera based on daytime talk show host Jerry Springer was staged in the early 2000s. There have been operas about familiar figures like Nixon, Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, too.

On a more serious note, a staging of The Death of Klinghoffer, an American opera about the hijacking of an ocean liner by the Palestinian Liberation Front in 1985, drew considerable protest at the Met last fall. Because the plot encourages the audience to sympathize with the terrorists, some see its content as anti-Semitic.

Jobs' personal journey may be less controversial, and the genre practically demands it serve up plenty of melodic drama. But it won't be the first time a depiction of Jobs has appeared on the operatic stage: CNET's Eric Mack reports that in 2014, a French opera called Steve V (King Different) portrayed Jobs as a Henry V character in an opera that mashed up both lives.

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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