“Space Opera” seems to have fallen out of favor since the ‘70s, which makes it a perfect target for reanimation and—let’s hope—popularization. This week the band Color presents ISON: A Space Opera, which retells the saga of the comet ISON.
The show is being touted as “a meditation on the supposed heroism of long voyages,” and includes guest musicians, vocalists, and actors, as well as spoken text taken verbatim from interviews with Sajan Saini, physicist, and Tim Recuber, sociologist. Core Color band members are vocalist Michael Blain (who also plays drums for the Williamsburg band Maude), guitar player Randy Miller (he also plays bass with the country band Hemi) and bassist Kristin Dombek, who is better known as the advice columnist at n+1.
Bandleader and drummer Svetlana Chirkova says they were inspired by “the brisk ascent to stardom and subsequent demise of the comet ISON, which went from being hailed as ‘a comet of the century’ to ‘a disappointment’ after a passage around the sun reduced it to disparate rocks floating in nothingness at the end of 2013.”
“Basically,” she adds, “we were so heartbroken about the comet being broken up, we imagined it was heartbroken too.”
Color describes itself as a collective, and the piece was created as a group beginning in January after the comet’s demise, constructing the material by focusing on the stages of ISON’s journey, the planets passed, and comparing these interactions to human ones. “Like an outsider entering a group,” Chirkova says, “growing in popularity only to crash and burn,” exploring “the very human experience of wanting to belong, falling in love, rejection and crushing defeat.”
Dombek adds that they’re “evoking the feeling of a heroic and tragic journey, without getting too specific about the details.” For those who are no fans of opera, don’t be afraid—there will be no anthropomorphizing of the Comet. Says Chirkova, “We didn’t want to dress up Blain in a comet suit and set him on fire. It’s still a music show first.”
Blain says that he’s “attempting to embody the voice of all the characters involved in the story,” and when asked if he might be compared (positively or negatively) to David Bowie, says, “it’s never a bad thing to be compared to Bowie.”
Bradley Spinelli (@13_Spinelli) is the author of “Killing Williamsburg.”