Activist Blog: “A New Door Into the World of Opera”

By Jackson Gamache, age 12
When I imagined opera I had the image of a lady in a Viking helmet trying to break glass with her high notes. But I could not have been farther from the truth. PermaDeath was nothing I would have expected. I would call it a video game opera. I have been in performances based on video games and adults try to appeal to kids by presenting what they know about video games. This almost always results in an awkward performance. PermaDeath was unique in that I think of it more as a new door into the world of opera.
In opera, the singing carries the plot through the lyrics. Traditionally images are created using big props and big sets. The world of PermaDeath is created using Computer Generated Imagery mixed with a rather simple set. The set is comprised of a couch, a desk with a computer, and a grid-like background resembling a coordinate plane. This creates the impression that we are in a C.G.I. artist’s computer, where he put the couch and the desk. The great thing about PermaDeath‘s set is that it doesn’t distract from the story and shows both the real world and the video game world on the same stage without any set changes.

Our main character, Sonny, is struggling with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and has already lost the use of the lower half of her body. But the video game world is her escape from reality. It allows her to walk and fight just like any action hero. Apollo, her avatar, wants Sonny to compete in the tournament of death with a grand prize of 3 million dollars. But Sonny knows that she is already losing feeling in her hands. If she plays, this could be the last time she ever touches the keyboard with Apollo at her command. This conflict parallels the main character’s struggle with ALS to the struggle of the video game characters fear of permadeath.

I think that the story is a little confusing at the beginning. My favorite part was when Apollo and Aphrodite are trying to “out grieve” each other over Adonis’s death.  Here PermaDeath did something that is incredibly hard to do in entertainment in general; you brought humor into a sad scene. Doing this can destroy a touching moment by making the sadness seem like it didn’t matter. The way that PermaDeath integrated the humorous element makes it easier to relate to the characters and feel what they are going through during the sad scenes.

PermaDeath is pioneering a new subgenre of opera. A younger generation that normally would not attend an operatic performance, would see opera in a whole new light after seeing Permadeath. Just as Hamilton brought new audiences to Broadway, PermaDeath may bring new audiences to opera if publicized enough through word of mouth and social media. As somebody who has never thought to go see an opera, seeing PermaDeath has opened my eyes to a different genre of performance.  And now, after seeing PermaDeath, I would go to see another opera hands down.