Role Playing Game – An Opera by Jacob Shulman

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Date(s) - Sat. Feb. 23, 2019
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm


Role Playing Game tells the story of a young man in post-Soviet Armenia who reinvents himself through a massively multiplayer online role playing game [MMORPG].  The opera addresses themes of loneliness, alienation, gender expression, and the complicated relationship between traditional cultures and our new digital world.

Featuring a cast of four and a supporting ensemble of twelve, the music blends Armenian folk music and Japanese videogame music into the opera style.  Specifically, synthesizer, Armenian duduk, Nintendo GameBoy, and digitally processed voice supplement a chamber ensemble of strings, clarinets, and piano.

Though many people are intimidated by opera, this project presents an accessible and entertaining 90-minute experience.  The story is contemporary, and in English; the music draws on cultures from outside the traditional old-world settings of the famous operas.  The production also features original projections behind the stage.

The protagonist of Role Playing Game, Ishkhan, creates an avatar that is everything he is not: bright, beautiful, free, and female.  At first, this new online persona reinvigorates his self-esteem, but then he naively plunges into an unhealthy relationship with another player online.  His mother, with great dismay, watches the game absorb her son; she worries how he will fulfill his role as an Armenian man, and she cannot understand the force the online world exerts on him.  This opera embraces the astounding social opportunities of the Internet but acknowledges the dark, addictive side of anonymous online interaction.

More details about this project here.