TODAY IN NETWORK AWESOME MAGAZINE
My musical interests are perverse enough that when I heard about the existence of a grand opera surrounding the 1972 diplomatic visit by then-President Richard Nixon to the People's Republic of China, I was immediately intrigued.
I can only imagine what it must have been like for the music writers of the world when John Adams' work finally premiered at the Houston Opera in 1987. I would hope that a similarly perverse curiosity piqued their interest, fascinated by how the people behind the project—theater director Peter Sellars, composer John Adams, and librettist Alice Goodman—would pull it off.
Sellars was already known in the theater and opera community for his challenging stagings of famous works. During the '80s, he had overseen productions of Mozart operas that were removed from their original settings and placed in contemporary society. Don Giovanni was transplanted to Spanish Harlem, with costumes straight out of a '70s Blaxploitation film, and the most famous aria in it being performed while the singer simulated shooting heroin...
The story of Cremaster 2 is loosely based on the life of Gary Gilmore (played in the film by Barney). Gilmore, born a Mormon, was sentanced to death for killing two men in Utah (a gas station attendant and a motel clerk) while on parole from a 12-year armed robbery sentance. Gilmore’s execution was the first in the US in a decade and attracted a lot of attention in the media. He did not appeal his death sentance, choosing instead to face execution by firing squad. Gilmore’s execution was a public relations nightmare for the Mormon Church: although both men he killed were Mormons, by choosing to make a “blood atonement” for his crimes Gilmore was absolved of his sin and entitled to all of the benefits of his Mormon baptism. Barney says he was drawn to Gilmore’s story because it, “was like a version of the whole ‘Cremaster’ dilemma, of a character in conflict with his destiny.” Gilmore’s story was the subject of Norman Mailer’s book The Executioner’s Song (Mailer, himself, appears in the film acting the role of escape artist Harry Houdini), parts of which form the foundation of Cremaster 2.
Within the Cremaster Cycle, Cremaster 2 represents the next first stirrings of gender difference. The idea of conflict between the sexes is explored using the metaphor of the queen bee and her drones (the beehive is also a symbol of Mormonism, signifying the importance of the collective over the individual, and appears on the Utah state flag). Another important motif in Cremaster 2 is the two-step. The dance is used as a metaphor for doubling back, Gilmore moving back through his own conception to Houdini’s metamorphosis...
"This situation is so bad that it is the worst that ever has been!" – The Professor
So you may want to know who the Professor is, or more pressingly, what is the situation? The worst situation that has ever been! Well when you watch Infra-Man you won’t have to wait long to find out. Before the Professor can proclaim the direness of the event, some crazy shit goes down: a Giant Flying Lizard crashes into a children’s school bus, the Earth is ruptured, and Hong Kong erupts in flames. And that’s just the first 60 seconds.
The situation is this. After a several million-year slumber, a prehistoric monarch by the name of Princess Dragon Mom has awoken and is royally pissed to discover she no longer rules the world. So she decides to enslave the entire human race with the help of her monster minions...
Kristen Bialik is a writer, teacher and graduate student of Journalism and Mass Communication. In her spare time, she's a baker of pies and maker of stories.