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Monday August 15th

“Whispering Pines,” a one-act opera, opens at Memorial Hall

Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett, Whispering Pines 10, New Museum, January 10, 2011.
Buy Photos Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett, Whispering Pines 10, New Museum, January 10, 2011.

Shana Moulton has an alter ego named Cynthia, an agoraphobic hypochondriac who lives in her own virtual environment.

Cynthia is the main character of Moulton’s multimedia one-act opera, “Whispering Pines,” which follows Cynthia’s character through elaborate hallucinations and surreal fantasies. The opera opens at Memorial Hall tonight.

And as part of the Loading Dock series, the audience and the opera’s performers will share the Memorial stage.

The opera is a product of the collaboration of Moulton — a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley who received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University and wrote the script — and Nick Hallett, the opera’s composer, who said the show goes beyond the traditional idea of an opera.

“I think it operates on different levels,” he said. “Her work to me is referencing the notion of a soap opera, and that opens itself up to the notion of opera.”

Hallett said that he first met Moulton when she was making her way into performance art. After he saw her work, he knew that he wanted to collaborate with her on a performance piece.

“Her works are very musical in how the stories get told,” he said. “Music offers so many different ways to help tell the story.”

Although “Whispering Pines” is called an opera, Hallett says that the term opera can often be threatening.

“Don’t be scared of the word opera here, it’s really something different,” he said.

Hong-An Truong, an assistant art professor at UNC, said she thought the art department was lacking in video performance.

When she saw excerpts from “Whispering Pines” in 2010, she became interested in bringing the show to UNC.

“Her work is really humorous and incredibly earnest. The main character is neurotic but calls attention to conditions of ordinary life that are really relatable,” Truong said.

Ellen James, marketing manager for the executive office for the arts, said that throughout the year, Carolina Performing Arts strives to showcase artists that are doing new things in their fields.

She said “Whispering Pines” is just the type of experimental art that they were looking to bring to UNC.

“It’s sort of the humor of self-help culture,” James said.

“It’s a work that is of interest to anyone who enjoys something unexpected.”

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