Last night my family went to a workshop production of Act 1 of Menagerie, an opera based on the Star Trek episode of that name. The libretto is by Linc and Lee Taiz, the composer is Ben Leeds Carson, and the direction was by John De Lancie.
My wife is the only one of us who is an opera fan (though all of us liked Star Trek), and she was the only one who understood most of what the singers were singing—operatic voice is not the most comprehensible form of singing. If I had thought to look up the website for the opera, I would have found that the libretto was on-line. Printing it out would have made it much easier for me to follow the singers, as the workshop did not have the time nor the budget for supertitles.
Because the purpose of the workshop was to provide the librettists and composer with a live performance for refining the opera further, several other economies were made: the orchestra had 17 musicians instead of 47 (mostly student musicians), there were no costumes, the set consisted of a couple of blocks for the actors to stand on, Captain Pike was represented by a blue glowing ball on a Genie lift, and only the first act (of 3) was performed. Despite the deliberately limited production values (they spent their short rehearsal time focusing on the music), our family found the workshop interesting and entertaining.
The role of Commodore Zuna Tor was not in the original Star Trek episode, replacing Commodore Mendez, so that the opera could have more sopranos and Captain Kirk could have a love interest. One unexpected bonus of the casting: the woman who sang Zuna Tor was very visibly pregnant—if the character is intended to be pregnant, there is the question of whether the child is Captain Kirk’s.
I was a little surprised by Spock being sung as a bass-baritone (even though Leonard Nimoy himself was a baritone), because I had thought of Spock in the plot as more a classic tenor role—but I know very little about opera, so I bow to the wisdom of the composer here. Kirk as a baritone and McCoy as a tenor made sense to me.
I think that the opera has some promise of bringing some younger audience members to the opera. “Younger” here is a relative term—a lot of Star Trek fans are now in their 60s and 70s, matching the median age of opera subscribers (around 65). But there are a lot of much younger Star Trek fans, who might serve to seed a future opera audience, if anyone ever manages to raise the $1 million it would take to stage a full production (estimate from the director of the San Jose Opera, who was in the audience for the question-and-answer after the workshop and who corrected Ben Carson’s estimate of a quarter million).
That would be a very big Kickstarter project, and it would probably take a year of raising awareness at all the Trekkie conventions and social media before starting fundraising. Traditional opera angel funding would probably be needed, unless there is a tech billionaire who is both a Trekkie and an opera fan.