Dissecting Norton is a live combination of two improvised operas following independent graphic scores: Dissecting Adam, by Julia A. Miller, and I, Norton, by Gino Robair, take the shape of improvised collages governed by graphic timelines. They combine the use of hand cues, graphic scores, memory-based improvisational structures, and traditionally notated music.

I, Norton is an open-ended project—a perpetual work-in-progress—with additions made for each performance. Dissecting Adam is in a mesodermic phase of development, adding flesh to a metaphorical skeleton.  Both operas are performed simultaneously, combining and juxtaposing elements and characters from both I, Norton and Dissecting Adam, to reflect upon the larger whole. The combined effort merges the eccentricity within structure of I, Norton, and the perspective of physicality elucidated by Dissecting Adam.

The operas reflect the use of traditional musical instruments as well as ancient, adapted, or hacked technology, invented instruments and performative objects, and the incorporation of the visual and physical into the sonic.  Interpretation of environment and the interrelatedness of participants and audience in situ results in the unexpected yet couth—the living, breathing, physical manifestation of wild imagination from the humble beginnings of order.

Photography by Lara Dorsett unless otherwise credited. Video editing and website by AesPop.

Improvised Opera Workshop Cast:
Julia A. Miller, composer/guitarist/voice
Barbara Ann Martin, voice
Ryan T Dunn, Emperor/Adam/video
Coppice (Noé Cuéllar & Joseph Kramer)
Eric Leonardson, springboard
Reid Karris, prepared guitar
Janice Mitchell, flute/voice
Dan Godston, trumpet
Guillermo Gregorio, clarinet
Jason Raynovich, cello
Sarah J. Ritch, cello
Mark Hardy, electric lyre and tapes
Enid Smith, dancer
Gino Robair, composer/conductor
Becca Brown, voice
Mark Baldridge, False Decrier
Kg Price, percussion/drumset
Greg O’Drobinak, electronics/recording engineer
Jon Hey, ARP Quartet/Yamaha CP-30
Christopher Preissing, flute/electronics
Ben Lamar, trumpet
Clifton Ingram, clarinet/guitar
Nomi Epstein, violin, objects, voice
Agnes Kline, cello
Kimberley Sutton, cello/bass lyre
Melissa Sanchez, dancer


Julia A. Miller

Dissecting Adam

The opera relates the existence of 111 year old Evelyn, whose life spans three centuries, having been born in 1899 and dying in 2011. Her story is interpreted by an ensemble of solo female voices. Generationally, the singers individually represent eras of Evelyn’s life, providing a skeletal frame for the exploration of the evolutionary archetype through her relationship to the male figures in her life (collectively known as “Adam”). Her lifetime provides the construct for artistic collaboration and exploration of other themes including (but not limited to) the word play on “adam” (human being, here translated as man) and the feminine “adamah” (ground, soil), and the ancient Chinese practice of using oracle bones for divination.

Gino Robair

I, Norton

The opera takes place during the Emperor’s final moments, as he lay dying on a rain-soaked street. The sound and images in each performance act as a metaphor for his life flashing before his eyes— events overlap and appear in fragments, often repeated and exaggerated. As a result, there is no linear storytelling involved; portions of the Emperor’s life are revealed through each realization of the piece.