D.C. Punks Make an Opera
Catherine Lewis reports:
And now for something completely different: Opera! No, wait, keep reading. A group of Washington, DC's
most dedicated punk rock devotees are taking their DIY ethic to another medium with The Nitrate
Hymnal, a multimedia opera by writer/musician Bob Massey and filmmaker David Wilson. The show will
open at the end of the month.
The opera is based on the lives of Massey's grandparents, whose 8mm home movies from 1941-1985 serve as the
work's source material. The Nitrate Hymnal plays on seen and unseen moments in the couple's life--
throughout, these film relics are complemented by on-stage actors, beginning at the end of their lives and
moving backwards to images of the young couple, newly married, innocently playing on a Hawaiian beach (just
weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack). Massey (Tsunami, Telegraph Melts, Gena Rowlands Band) has been
instrumental in DC's music scene since the 1990s, booking shows and curating a local composer's salon called
Punk Not Rock, while Wilson (Kansas Anymore, Magic City) has had his films shown in countless festivals
worldwide, including New York's Underground Film Festival.
If you haven't tired of the not-so-familiar namedropping yet, try this on for size: The Nitrate Hymnal's
all-star orchestra features members of Circus Lupus (Dischord), Skull Kontrol (Touch and Go), HiM, Frodus,
Fast Eddie, and folks who perform with Mary Timony, Edith Frost, and Jenny Toomey, among others. Jonathan
Kreinik, who has toured relentlessly as a soundman for Trans Am and the Hot Snakes, provides the show's
sound design. Now we're ringing some bells. The Nitrate Hymnal will run from January 23rd to January
25th at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Auditorium in Alexandria, VA. The group hopes to
take this show on the road in the spring.
.: The Nitrate Hymnal: http://www.nitratehymnal.net/
.: George Washington Masonic Memorial: http://www.gwmemorial.org/
.: Originally published: 15 January 2003
.: Items mentioned above on Amazon.com:
Super Genius (Circus Lupus, 1995);
Ilium (Telegraph Melts, 1999);
Zzzzzz Ep (Skull Kontrol, 2000).