The experience of THE INVENTION OF MOREL doesn’t begin when you sit down in your seat inside the theater. The Chicago Opera Theater has created a unique experience for its audience members to participate in - a virtual reality tour of the setting.
You sit down in a chair and place a large pair of goggles over your head as an assistant places a phone in the front compartment in front of your eyes. It’s a 360 degree view of the island as the narrator from the story guides us. You’re in a boat traveling down a river with beaches and jungles on either side of you. Then you see it. The old museum building where the strangeness of the island takes place.
This VR experience is a unique way to start the theatre experience as you begin to feel like you’re on the island and directly part of this story.
THE INVENTION OF MOREL Began as a Novel
Based on the book published in 1940, The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares is told from a fugitive’s diary entries on a deserted island. There are mysterious and inexplicable happenings on the island. The man believes the island is deserted, but sees a group of tourists apparently on vacation. He immediately falls in love with a woman, Faustine, and does everything he can to draw her attention.
When she doesn’t reply to his advances, or rather ignores him completely, he thinks something is amiss. Eventually, the truth comes out from one of the other tourists, Dr. Morel. He has brought this group of people to the island to be with the woman he loves forever.
To do this, he says he has invented a machine that has recorded their actions from the past week and preserves their souls for eternity. Their souls will live this same week over and over again while their bodies eventually die because they have no souls in them. The fugitive realizes these people aren’t ignoring him - they’re not even real, which means his beloved Faustine is dead!
Now he must decide, should he live out his mortal life on this island or choose to record himself to become immortal to preserve his soul alongside Faustine’s?
The Story Has It’s Ups and Downs
The most interesting part about Chicago Opera Theater’s commissioned opera was the mystery behind the island. The beginning part of the story captures your interest as we are given the fugitive’s backstory and introduced to the island. It’s interesting as we uncover the strangeness of the island at the same time as our narrator/fugitive.
The middle part of the opera lags a bit as it is mostly the fugitive proclaiming his feelings for Faustine. He is hopeful when he tries to grab her attention, but laments when he thinks she is ignoring him. He tries to figure out is she has a relationship with another man in the tourist group. His character feels very one note as it seems his only purpose is to be in love with Faustine. However, there were a few charming moments that brought the interest back when Andrew Wilkowske playing The Fugitive is courting Faustine.
In the last minutes of the play as the mystery of the island is being revealed, the opera brings you back into it’s grip. The music swells as the situation becomes more intense. When we find out the guests are no longer alive, it’s as much a shock to us as it is to them! It engages you to right up until the very last moments as the fugitive makes his final decision.
Gorgeous Singing, Costumes, and Set Design
Valerie Vinzant playing Faustine had a beautiful voice that rings loud and clear across the auditorium.
The rest of the cast was also solid in their performances and were fun to watch as the snobbish friends.
The costumes were fabulous with their 1920’s flair.
The set is simple but adds more detail with projections to show the different settings on the island from the beach to the abandoned museum.
This show definitely showcased their talented cast and crew!
The Chicago Opera Theater stuck to their mission of bringing new and contemporary designs with this opera. It’s bold and technology driven - perfect for an out of the ordinary opera. THE INVENTION OF MOREL has an interesting mystery and a great look.
This limited run held performances on February 18, 24, and 26 at the Studebaker Theater.
For more information about more exciting opera events from the Chicago Opera Theater, please visit their website chicagooperatheater.org