When the Cincinnati Opera performs the U.S. premiere of “Another Brick in the Wall,” an operatic adaptation of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” the classic 1979 concept album about an alienated rock star named Pink, for the next two weekends, there are bound to be some unfortunate, unintentional associations.
“The set will have two enormous walls that move in various compositions,” said Suzanne Crocker, Stage Director of the show. “Audiences will see it and think of Donald Trump’s desire to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. There’s no getting around that.”
Of course, the wall is metaphorical, representing Pink’s self-isolation brought on by the wartime death of his father, his divorce, and his increasingly contentious relationship with his fans. The album was adapted into a hallucinogenic movie in 1982. The opera, written by classical composer Julien Bilodeau of the Opéra de Montréal, is not a retread of either one. Indeed, Roger Waters, primary composer of “The Wall,” would never have given permission if it were.
“(Roger Waters) didn’t want just a symphony orchestra version of the album,” Crocker said. “Julien is a Pink Floyd fan but wanted to do his own piece, and that’s what engaged Roger Waters after Julien sent him three excerpts.”
Waters signed on to be the opera’s librettist, and after its debut with the Opéra de Montréal, it’s U.S. premiere in Cincy will be performed by eight soloists, 48 chorus members, and a 70-piece operatic orchestra.
In addition to the massive walls, the staging includes video projections on the walls and a 20-by-20-foot LED screen in the center. Although there are approximately 100 sound cues from the album, the video content is entirely original.
“Sometimes, it’s just atmosphere,” Crocker said. “Portraits of characters in the war, or references to the movie like white crosses.”
Pink Floyd fans can imagine what the big vocal moments would be with a 48-person chorus, such as the children singing the refrain in “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II.”
“There’s that, and ‘Bring the Boys Back Home,’” Crocker said. “The chorus is a character in itself. They’re just as important as Pink. Except for a duet between Pink and his wife, the chorus is constant.”
Then, of course, there’s “The Trial,” not only the album’s climax but obviously the most theater-friendly portion of the album. Crocker wasn’t willing to give too much away, but assured us that audiences will be blown away by the original costumes, particularly that of the notoriously “cheeky” judge.