Paper or Plastic: An Eco-Opera for the ages

Paper or Plastic: An Eco-Opera for the ages

Paper or Plastic, a story of environmental responsibility, runs on July 18th and 19th

A story of sorrow, morality, and the bond between human beings set within the confines of a co-op checkout line. Paper or Plastic, an Eco-Opera written by Cambridge artist Monica Raymond explores the lives of four drastically different people who are brought together and indirectly confront the impact of their carbon footprints. Growing up Raymond did not have much experience with the world of classical music, her minor exposure coming from listening to the famed Victorian theatrical duo Gilbert and Sullivan. However the idea of adapting her tale of environmental altruism to an opera appealed to her. "I had been playing around with different ideas for the script for a while and then I thought why not do an opera?" Said Raymond.

Paper or Plastic revolves around four central characters whose real names are never revealed. The Cashier, a tattooed liberal pessimist who manages to get through her menial job at an urban co-op daydreaming of ways to save the planet. The First Customer, a neurotic perfectionist whose crazed by the pace of modern life and cannot be bothered with the contemplation of packing material. The Second Customer, a man whose wife recently died and left him a downtrodden mess, venturing out on his own for the first time in a long time and being fully enamored with her memory. And The Third Customer, an elderly scientist who knowledge in material degradation is only rivaled by his eavesdropping skills. Throughout the opera the characters chip away at the barriers enveloping their psyches and reach beyond the ethical environmental dilemma and the longing for interpersonal contact.

Raymond collaborated with composer Charles Raymond to convey her story through operatic measures and dynamics. The two met several years ago, working on a project together that was presented at the Toy Piano Festival. When Raymond sought to set her words to music, she contacted Turner who then spent the better part of five months composing the opera. He also handpicked the musicians and vocalists, many of whom he had worked with previously. Turner was on board right away when he was presented the project, drawn to its offbeat and comic tone with a moral basis. "If the script is written in poetic verses and rhyming it's not naturalistic writing and I like that." Said Turner. Raymond put her faith in Turner to choose singers who were ideal to fit the roles she wrote, and she could not be happier with the results. "I wanted the experience of heightened singing, in a play people are going to have mundane experiences and with a story revolving around the fate of the earth voices are the most important and powerful thing" Said Raymond.

Paper or Plastic will run for two days, July 18 as part of the Outside the Box Festival in Boston Common at noon and July 19 at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education at 8pm. There are plans of possibly producing a cd in the future, as for what Raymond wants the audience to get from the opera she is content with letting them decide for themselves. “I hope it opens up a space in their minds, since it’s an open space, I can’t say what will come out of it.”