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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Boffo Opera in Santa Clara

By Eric A. Carlson

"No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible."
--W.H. Auden

FEBRUARY 27, 2000, was unquestionably a defining day for Linus Lau and Daniel Lee. That evening, at Santa Clara University Recital Hall, several years of intensely creative work culminated in the boffo premiere of their opera, The Release. Linus, now 22, was all of 19 when he first conceptualized the music. When Daniel was asked by Linus to write the libretto he, also, was a wizened 19.

I met up with the wunderkinds at Daniel's Spartan apartment--about two blocks from Santa Clara University, across the street from Mondo Burrito and one house away from an abandoned gas station. At night you can see planes, like stars, landing and taking off--in silence--at San Jose Airport. I was hoping to extract a morsel of Eastern flavor from Linus when I asked him where his parents hailed from--expecting Shanghai or some other godforsaken spot. "Ohio," he responded. "We moved to California when I was 1." Ohio is not a flavor. Daniel was born in San Francisco, moved to Brazil for a spate of years and returned to the Bay Area when he was 6. The two met at Resurrection School in Sunnyvale when Linus was in the eighth grade and Daniel in the seventh.

Linus wrote his first piece of music when he was 11; his passion for music has not abated, and last year he received his music degree from Santa Clara University. The Release is his magnum opus. "The happiest and most creative project," he told me. He has written scores for documentaries, and expressed interest in transferring his abilities to the movies--editing and directing are not out of the question. Linus will do just fine; look for his name in the credits. I see him wearing very expensive bug-eye-blue shades while driving a white Porsche on Sunset Boulevard.

Daniel is a senior at Santa Clara University, and like Linus, leans toward film-- whether it be writing screenplays, editing or directing. And I suspect he already owns bug-eye-blue shades. He is blessed with a silver tongue, or in slam parlance, a radioactive niobium tongue. Dan rails and wails at poetry events, and last year placed in the finals of the National Poetry Slam. You can find him at the Silicon Valley Poetry Slam, held the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at Waves Smokehouse & Saloon.

The Release, in Daniel's words, "tells the story of a love triangle set against the backdrop of the glitzy fashion world." The story commences on New Year's Eve at a frenzied photo shoot, followed by a grand fandango attended by "the seedier upper class." The protagonists are brimming with success and joy ... except for the soprano, who feels trapped by the jewelry, furs and mansion that her husband has provided. She succumbs to the charms of a nearby bartender who is, of course, more attentive to her needs than the dirt-bag husband. All hell breaks loose at this point as the consequences of sin shatter every heart. It is a beautifully told story; the music lyrical and quixotic as it builds. And exquisitely sorrowful in moments of high dudgeon--there are a lot of those. The music and libretto are sheath and dagger--what you might expect from co-writers who have known each other since the seventh grade.

The live performance of The Release was so spectacular that it has taken on a life of its own. The opera has found a distributor in the Franchesa Group, and enough investment money to commence studio recording. (More investors are being sought; contact www.franchesa.com/AR.html if interested.) Who knows, investing in young local artists might provide a better payoff than gambling on greedy dotcom companies.

Final Note No. 1: The Release is a one-act opera employing five instruments, four singers and a small cast of extras.

Final Note No. 2: A svelte soprano signals the end of it all, on a sad, but beautiful note.

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From the January 18-24, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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