In parallel with our further development of Tonseisha, a play we have been transforming into an opera/performance installation, we have started R&D on Tesla – The Opera. We – director/librettist, producer, composer, designer – have found a good way of working together, we make arresting theatre, and it transpires that we are all science-geeks excited by Nikola Tesla, the father of modern electricity, a Serbian-American inventor whose nicknames include The God of Lightning and The Man Who Lit Up The World.

Our aim is to make a full-scale opera, based on Tesla’s life and inventions, from scratch.

The Project excites us because:

  • Design potential. saltpeter loves opera because it is extremely theatrical. At the core of the company, we’re asking questions about the future of making theatre. Through looking at opera and other, older forms of theatre that have died out, we’re having great fun being irreverent and discarding rules, after learning about them and deciding what it is we care about pushing forward.While people associate opera with music, we’re very aware of it being a highly visual form. We are raring to create in an “outside in” way e.g. how Robert Wilson and Phillip Glass constructed their controversial opera, Einstein on the Beach, by deciding how long it would be, how many sections it would have, and then colouring it in.With Tesla – The Opera, simplistically, we will select several arresting images from his experiments, arrange them to form a coherent structure withing which his lif story and the trials of his time are told. An example is to create a spectacle of light with Tesla Coils.

    Tesla Coils create lightning, and Tesla believed in distributing electricity for free to the masses,
    creating experiments to conduct it through the air without wires.

  • We want to look at the interdependency we’ve discovered between music, text, and images working on our current piece, and to push our theatrical experiments further with Tesla.

    Music evokes images and emotions. Music can drive a piece.
    Composing for Tesla, what do we think creativity and invention might sound like?

    It is rare to have the opportunity to write and compose an opera completely in tandem. One is usually done after the other. Because we are a long-term and process led, and have tested our working relationships via other projects, this is a fantastic, and feasible challenge for our practice.

  • We love East London, where we base most of our work, and would love to make a site-specific piece. It’s an interesting area of high commerce and social deprivation. The themes within Tesla – the idealism of free electricity, the American Dream of an immigrant in a new world, his personal beliefs fighting his need for corporate sponsorship from J P Morgan – would work incredibly well.
  • We have the personnel to make this work well. We believe that the extra fizz you can get from an ensemble of creatives is rare. Unlike companies driven by performers, saltpeter is an artist-driven company where our designers, composers, writers, technicians, musicians, and performers get equal play time. design.

Our time at PitLab coming up will see us banning actors and focussing on lights, sound, and design.

  • It would be wonderful to share our wonderment of science with the public. What Tesla did was revolutionary and even now seems magical, almost beyond belief. We want to look at and beyond the hard science, acknowledging his remarkable achievements but reveling who he was: a human being we can all identify with.
  • This will be an incredibly fun show.