Ted Riederer · Day May

Callisto: The Dead Moon is a body of work inspired by a fictional opera. The idea began nearly a decade ago when I visited the Met Opera at Lincoln Center. On a large wall in the basement of the lobby was a tiny set painting depicting the moon glowing through a patch of clouds. An anonymous sketch, the piece was dominated by dozens of other framed pictures that were hung salon style floor to ceiling, and yet I zeroed in on the image. The idea that a small study would eventually be scaled up to be a three-story backdrop for an opera inspired the idea that small gestures could have monumental proportions, that the suggestion of monumentality could be a provocative tool of expression.

Taking further inspiration from Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mecanique, El Lissitzky’s drawings for 1913 futurist opera Victory over the sun, as well as George Baselitz’s and William Kentridge’s set designs for Parsifal and Wozzeck, I began to deveop set designs, props, and costumes for what I initially decided was to be a purely visual opera. I have since had the irresistable urge to develop music, basing a score completely on vinyl lock grooves, sound etched into a circular groove. I enlisted the help of Soprano Heather Green to create my first operatic composition called Day May.

Drawing heavily from Space Opera, a genre of science fiction epitomized by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, Callisto: The Dead Moon renders the end of life on earth and the search for divinity and redemption in the cosmos. Each visual element plays with two motiffs: musical instruments as instruments of divinity, and the ascendence of scale.  In the set models, a flute evokes Bauhaus architecture, a metal clarinet a rocket ship.