Steve Jobs revolutionized the way we think about the world and how we acquire information, communicate and access music. This story of his life and how he viewed his mortality are the essence of the opera by composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell. “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” a new production by Tomer Zvulun and The Atlanta Opera, opens April 30 and runs through May 8. Campbell joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about this award-winning opera.
How the reluctant librettist was won over:
“It was composer Mason Bates’s idea to write an opera about Steve Jobs. He originally called me and said, ‘I want to work on an opera with you,’ and he forgot to tell me the subject. And I said yes because I wanted to work with Mason. He is an incredible songwriter, a real driving force in electronic music, especially,” said Campbell. “And then he told me the subject, and I [said]’Oh no, not Steve Jobs.’”
He continued, “My original impression of him, which was somewhat incorrect, was that he was just an impossible person who mistreated his employees… I also thought it was going to be an impossible task, and in fact I still think it is an impossible task. — writing an opera about someone who is so familiar to everyone… However, as I began to read about the man, I discovered ways that I could humanize him and create the story that Mason initially saw with this man. He is an important figure and his work will be with us for a long time”.
Steve Jobs life story in a song:
“We started when Steve Jobs is 10 years old and his dad gives him a workbench and says, ‘You can take things apart and you can make things,’” Campbell said. “Most of the story takes place in 2007, when Steve Jobs was diagnosed with cancer and he began to face his own mortality.”
“That idea of looking at your own mortality is what drives this story forward, and he basically takes a circular path, looking at the memories of his life and all the important events in his life that shaped him, including his work with Steve Wozniak. , getting married and impregnating a woman, and then denying that the child was hers, but then, more importantly, meeting Laurene Powell, who completely altered the way she looked at life.”
Ticking in the quirks of Jobs’s character:
“The perfectionist side of his character, which is well documented and sometimes very comical, as you may know, like he hated, for example, the lighting sockets. He thought they were ugly. The rest of us see them as utilitarian, and he had to hide them behind walls,” Campbell said. “I understand that, in a way, for anyone trying to be precise with language. I mean, I’m not putting myself on the same level as Steve Jobs, but I got into that aspect of the character of him.”
“It was interesting about Steve Jobs and that he could be so cold, even sadistic at times. I think part of that was because his ego took over after he became a corporate success,” said Campbell. “And one thing that I love about John Moore, who plays our Steve Jobs here, is that he can turn on the cold, mean, really dark side of Steve Jobs on a dime. He sings like an angel and moves like a dancer, but he can really play that Steve Jobs aspect, and the aspect that he can cut a human being with two words.”
“The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” is presented at the Atlanta Opera from April 30 to May 8. Tickets and more information are available at www.atlantaopera.org/performance/the-revolution-of-steve-jobs.