‘The Companion’ at Roulette

Robopera: Boerum Hill opera combines androids and arias

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bow down to your new robot opera-lords.

On April 22, a Boerum Hill theater will play host to a one-act opera featuring a futuristic world chock-full of biomorphic androids who perform menial household duties and have sex on command. The production should inspire some laughs, said the show’s artistic director, but it is also deadly serious.

“There are themes of sex and a lot of dirty jokes, but at the same time it’s looking at these deep issues of inner longing and what it means to be human,” said Amelia Lukas of the Ear Heart Music modern chamber music series, which is putting on the production along with American Modern Ensemble and American Opera Projects.

Penned by composer Robert Paterson, “The Companion” — which is only 35 minutes long — follows a corporate executive named Maya who is unhappy with Joe, a robot that is perceptive and handsome but not emotionally available. Maya calls tech support worker Dax to upgrades Joe, but after a bout of flirting, Maya realizes it is the human Dax she wants after all.

The opera is unique in that it is written almost like a play and presents a sophisticated acting challenge to the singers, according to the stage director.

“It changes constantly from moment to moment and there’s a lot of subtle dynamics between characters,” said Walker Lewis, who just returned from directing “The Threepenny Opera” in Texas. “It’s an amazing fusion of theater and opera at the same time.”

And the arias do not stop with androids. Another 30-minute opera exploring the human and nonhuman aspects of the Virgin Mary, “The Wanton Sublime,” will precede the robotic revue. The biblical display has more of an ethereal and slightly neo-romantic music style to it, according to Lukas, who wanted to pair the operas together out of sheer contrariety.

“It is that contrast and dichotomy that I found really fascinating,” Lukas said. “The two operas are actually extremely different, both in their musical aesthetic and also in their content.”

“The Wanton Sublime” and “The Companion” at Roulette [509 Atlantic Ave. between Third Avenue and Nevins Street in Boerum Hill,, (212) 219–8242]. April 22 at 8 pm. $20 general, $15 members and seniors.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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