Sensorium Ex is a new opera in progress, commissioned by the Atlanta Opera and Beth Morrison Projects for composer Paola Prestini and librettist Brenda Shaughnessy. The full-length piece is in the research/development/writing stage and is slated to premiere in 2020. Prestini and Shaughnessy are immersed in a deep exploration of the question—to be answered in music, words, storytelling, drama—of what it means to be fully and essentially human, connected and thriving in a web of communities both domestic and scientific. The inquiry and storyline of the opera is currently finding shape, arc, and vitality at the dynamic intersections of disability studies, neuroscience, computer-science, robotics, AI, and machine-learning technology. Sensorium Ex is developed and produced by Atlanta Opera and Beth Morrison Projects in association with Arizona State University, EnactLab and Hamletscenen of Copenhagen, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Lyric Theater@University of Illinois.
[sen·so·ri·um] noun. Latin.
1. the parts of the brain or the mind concerned with the reception and interpretation of sensory stimuli; broadly : the entire sensory apparatus.
2. Constantly changing realm of the senses.
A Guiding Thought
Sensorium Ex: Everything She Knows She Knows By Heart. An opera exploring and exploding notions of how humans–with particular histories, gifts, and abilities–perceive and understand the world. Inspired by Chad Foster, a businessman whose blindness from macular degeneration is only part of the beginning of his story, Sensorium Ex challenges the assumptions that disability is, by definition, loss.
A group of scientists gather around Sophia, their newest robotic invention whose sight reads minds. Each has come to the table for different reasons, which unravel as we eavesdrop on intertwined characters whose narratives morph and migrate like all stories of our lives: in a mysterious and unstable mix of perception, memory, reason and emotion. The truth of who we are is ever in flux, yet it persists in love, in the senses, in the depths of loss, and in human connection. The journey to the truth of ourselves may well be interior, or from soul to soul, but the distance traveled is beyond measure. As the scientists relationships to Sophia are uncovered, their own motivations for “seeing” come to light, and we come to understand her sight as a composite of their lives and dreams.