The Source
Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

Composer Ted Hearne, librettist Mark Doten and director Daniel Fish have done the impossible with their new opera, THE SOURCE, taking such dramatic elements as America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the WikiLeaks/Chelsea Manning/Adrian Lamo whistle-blower controversy, and turning them into a boring, incomprehensible, muddled mess.

The collaborators, backed up by support from LA Opera Off Grand, Beth Morrison Projects and the Mellon Foundation, opted for a collage-like approach to the 75-minute opera, pasting together snippets of military cables, twitter feeds, TV interviews (Diane Sawyer and Steven Hawking), Dixie Chicks lyrics and Dinah Washington warbling “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in the hope of making a meaningful social statement. Unfortunately, content was betrayed by form, owing to the decision to digitally “tune” the four singers’ voices, making them sound like alien creatures from outer space. Surrounding the audience with giant video screens showing a series of impassive, anonymous faces was an equally unfortunate mistake.

The opera’s only saving grace was the jangly, hard-driving musical score, performed behind a scrim by a skilled seven-person ensemble.

Presented recently at Redcat, THE SOURCE tried to find its way to the human values at the heart of the Iraq/Afghanistan tragedy, only to get sidetracked and lost in a technological maze. The opera’s incoherent narrative laid bare its desperate need for a playwright.