By Marcina Zaccaria
Is science revelatory? Who are we in relationship to the dinosaurs? What does planetary rotation mean to us?
There is almost no foul in Science Fair, a captivating opera with experiments, conceived and performed by Hai-Ting Chinn, a HERE Resident Artist. Blending forms of music, performance art, and visuals, Science Fair speaks to the scientific world that dazzles the senses. Hai-Ting Chinn (The Wooster Group’s La Didone) sings about finding DNA in strawberries, the duality of matter, and other scientific matters.
Science Fair is a study of time, what makes us different than the dinosaurs, and who are we in the greater cosmos. Experiments light up in florescent colors. Beakers fill the modular shelving unit. Mixing chemicals for the stage, Hai-Ting Chinn navigates around an ordered world, making observations about the universe and her place in it.
Science always seems to be a joy and never a laborious study. Wearing a short, white space age suit with red tights, while reciting the work of Marie Curie (among others), Hai-Ting Chinn embraces comedy. Both flirty and modest, she wears a giant hoop skirt that cleverly fits on the wall. This “space age” world is beautifully fashioned, with spare lighting by Lucrecia Briceno and state-of-the-art video projections by Caite Hevner Kemp. Chinn is not necessarily reverent with a beaker, but she has a good deal of respect for color and new discovery. With a few nods to art and to rock formations, Hai-Ting Chinn celebrates nature, sharing text from Alice Roberts, Phil Plait, and Lisa Randall, among others.
It’s more than a mere recitation – the experiments are not all about color, light, and vectors. Director Lisa Rothe has smartly incorporated movement. Rotation of the planets presents like a balletic fantasy. Moments succeed with a light, clever spin. Science Fair takes the lessons many of us have heard and puts them in a presentational format. Hai-Ting Chinn shares a careful exuberance in this through-sung work.
Science Fair brings us from the Paleolithic era into 2016 by using the latest gadgets and devices. In a sequence created to dazzle the audience, Hai-Ting discusses vibration and the human voice, showing how waves move on a colorful screen. The sequence emphasizes the complexity of singing. It’s an interesting demonstration, and we hear how different her tone is, after these exercises.
With the entire classical composition on an electronic device in front of her, Erika Switzer (Piano & Music Direction) provides solid accompaniment. Though she has performed in venues like Le Poisson Rouge, Mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn only for a moment, steps to the piano like a cabaret singer. As a team, they consider all the elements. Surprising moments include playing tones with water on the rims of glasses.
While the performance is joyous, it’s also chock full of facts. Science Fair will spark the senses, and make you appreciate the world this side of the moon.
The show runs at HERE Arts Center through April 24. www.HERE.org