The Listeners

Missy Mazzoli, Libretto by Royce Vavrek based on a novel by Jordan Tannahill
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Oslo
Norwegian National Opera, Oslo

Listing details and ticket info...

The Listeners Credit: Erik Berg
The Listeners Credit: Erik Berg
The Listeners Credit: Erik Berg

Here (says a press release over-optimistically) is an opera for our times about our search for belonging, understanding the incomprehensible, and how charismatic leaders can exploit our longing for connection.

An American high school teacher (Nicole Heaston) fears she is going out of her mind. She hears a mysterious and constant low frequency hum. She befriends a teenage student (Eirik Grøtvedt) who befriends her.

The noise is likened by the anxious, depressed community to a hard buzz, an electric bell and a drill grinding into the brain. The phenomenon, which is global, is unexplained. A community action group is formed to understand and eliminate it. Simon Neal is cast as the cult leader, a fraudster, who abuses his power. Tone Kummervold is cast as his second-in-command.

The opera, which claims to seek to illuminate what it means to be a citizen of the world right now, did absolutely nothing for me, either musically or dramatically. “Shut the fuck up!” says a singer on stage. “I am not putting up with this shit.” I couldn’t agree more. The Listeners is not a howling success.

Lileana Blain-Cruz’s production, conducted by Ilan Volkov, is co-produced by Opera Philadelphia and Chicago Lyric Opera and streamed as part of the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival.

The Listeners can be watched free online on the OperaVision channel.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch