vision of this ritual theatre as opera is based not on orthodox
opera but on tribal music drama, in which the music enables us to
cut through to the other world, domain of all possibility, where
music provides constantly shifting stair-patterns of atmospheres
and color-textures, wombs for words and actions to be born out of,
eruptions and flows of sound-feeling ignited from ritual acts. No
opera-singing in the usual sense: chanting, tonal singing, words
riding tones as their vehicles, words bursting into the air with
a ripped vocal hatching—music curling around them, piercing
through, anticipating, rivering along on its own like a gamelan.
The musicians create tonal and atmospheric structures to nurture
inspiration for the performances, precisely working out all the
rhythms and quick changes. The mountains of heaven ring when word
and music, action and intention and reverberation work precisely
together—space falls open…
Our thirst for the primordial keep us from using electricity to
amplify any of the
instruments or actors. The whole vision is designed to be performed
the raw air of IT, on a hillside after civilizations blow
all their plugs and still the
Spirit dances approachable and manifestable within us! Haunted by
cultural hopelessness, we create out of cardboard and cloth the
rendings of eternal music, flute-flashes in the smoldering dark!
To approach all with mouths abruptly open, to let sincerities flow
in this marketplace of violent madmen kicking over the pure vegetables!
The opera is conceived of as an initiation ceremony opening areas
of sound and
image, guiding them with the chanted sound of vocal AUM. So this
is Aum Theatre. The final feeling is rings of Aum chanting coming
through the different hectic phases of the action, more full and
certain as the opera progresses, until at the end everyone goes
into the audience and people familiar with the chant open their
own throat-heart-spirits to reveal the sound of twentieth-century
Initiates, showing us: we are all in a state of amazement!
to top of page
from six to ten males and females dressed in bright
colors, individual loose clothing, faces painted with simple designs,
moons and stars.
SUN-DANCER PROPHET: orange and white simple,
nearly naked, figure of raw man burned in sun-fire, purified, feathers
dangling, sun-disc on his back.
WANDERER: bare-chested, plain, bright white
loose trousers, barefoot, golden, a stallion of gesture.
SHAMAN: dressed in green serape, appears
as different characters; he is the sha-man of the opera, balancing
it, sitting onstage; a member of the Orchestra; and also plays the
RIVER OF LIGHT, naked with silver and blue striped body-
paint and streamers.
VAIROCANA: father totem seen as an eagle,
great wings, feather crest, rattle
(also Viracocha of South America, name and inspiration for figure
Tibetan Buddhist iconography, but departed from as American Indian
totem an-cestor from our own naked blood)—orange, fiery.
CONSORT: Yum-mate of Vairocana’s Yab,
cool blue and turquoise silver wings and bead necklace, spectral.
KALI: awesome monster female Eater and Goddess
of Destruction, transformed later to simple naked woman, clean as
primal earth, and mother; at beginning all in black with head-necklace
of severed victims and blood-fire burning up from the ground (hem
of skirt) at her feet. She waves a long black cloth as her own dark
MINOTAUR: appears in the underworld with
PHOENIX: rises from Kali’s dissolution,
Egypt-wing’d, personified by the Shaman, calling and crying
ORCHESTRA: sometimes up to fifteen players—Borneo
gongs, Indian flutes, drums, Chinese and Tibetan oboes,
harmonicas, Persian bells, western viola, cello, bass, French horn,
Chinese Shêng, Japanese Sho, plastic toy piano, etc.(instruments
tuned together by San Francisco composer and occasional player,
Ramon Sender, Chinese Erhu played also occasionally and anonymously
by Terry Riley)
Scenery and Setting / Beginning
to top of page