Live Music Installation
for found & broken instruments

O(pa)pera is a musical zoetrope. A quartet of displaced musicians find themselves sheltered inside of a revolving paper tent. Playing found and broken instruments reminds them of a former life and points to a future of new possibilities.

photos by Cameron Nagashima

Composer Byron Au Yong knew that he wanted to create a paper opera with musicians inside of a gigantic lantern. When the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami happened in 2011, he merged the words "opera" and "paper" to become O(pa)pera. He found inspiration in Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designing paper buildings for disaster relief victims. How could music be used after a catastrophe? A creative team was gathered for O(pa)pera Phase One in 2011, while the Seattle Art Museum's Luminous Exhibition was touring Asia.

In collaboration with director Roger Benington and musicians Jeremiah Cawley, Tiffany Lin, and Tari Nelson-Zagar, Au Yong began rehearsals gathering stories about musicians and earthquakes. Violinist Nelson-Zagar remembered that after the 1935 Montana earthquake, her grandmother and father lived in a tent for several months. Au Yong found that Haydn wrote a string quartet with a section called Terremoto (earthquake).

O(pa)pera Phase One was performed in the Arnold Board Room of the Seattle Art Museum for two sold out shows in January 2012.

before the lights dim...

Phase One of Four

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer / musician
Roger Benington, director / installation artist
Jeremiah Cawley, musician
Tari Nelson-Zagar, musician
Tiffany Lin, musician
Yuka Kitayama, announcer

Nancy Casanova, project manager
Frank Phillips, technical consultant
Lauren Iida, videographer
Cameron Nagashima, photographer

Along with singing, drumming + playing paper, the musicians perform on: erhu, xun, typewriter (Au Yong), trombone, harmonica (Cawley), violin, xun (Nelson-Zagar), cello, found electronic device, toy piano, water gong (Lin). Benington activated the gigantic zoetrope with numerous lights.

Yuka announces: "Object Number..."

Become Involved
O(pa)pera is in four phases. The creative team would like to partner with science museums as well as disaster relief organizations to continue the research & development. Contact Au Yong for details.

Special Thanks
Jerry Becker, John Gilbreath, Crystal Mazzali, KT Niehoff, Fred & Nelly Schaffner, Esther Sugai, Mayumi Tsutakawa, along with support from SAM staff especially Jamie Andrews, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Erin Langner, Wendy Saffel, & Greg Sandoval