APOLAKI: Opera Of The Scorched Earth: Micaela Tobin Explores Displacement in New Opera

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The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts faculty and alum Micaela Tobin’s (Music MFA 16) new experimental opera APOLAKI: Opera of the Scorched Earth premieres on Friday, July 21 and Saturday, July 22 at the Zorthian Ranch in Altadena, California. 

In this work, which is a sequel to her 2021 opera album and film BAKUNAWA: Opera of the Seven Moons, the artist continues her celebration of pre-colonial Filipino mythologies by centering Apolaki, the god of sun and war. Portrayed by dancer and choreographer Jay Carlon, Apolaki walks a foreign land after being displaced from the Philippines by Spanish colonizers. Described as an immersive pilgrimage, the opera tackles complex relationships between settler colonialism, migration, and diaspora.

Tobin collaborates with Carlon, experimental percussionist M A Harms (Music MFA 22), electric bass/guitarist Stephen McNeely, producer Brian Sea, sound designer and Herb Alpert School of Music faculty Josephine Shetty (Music MFA 21), and designer Carlo Meghirang (Theater MFA 17) to create the portal of Filipino liberation into which the audience is drawn.

Creating under the moniker White Boy Scream, Tobin’s work is characterized by the use of noise, drone, and opera, integrating voice with electronics. The LA-based Filipina soprano, sound artist, and teacher specializes in experimental voice and contemporary opera. Through ritualized gesture and object symbolism, she explores her Filipina-American identity and challenges colonial stories and systems. 

Tobin’s past work also includes the experimental opera Unseal Unseam (2016) which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland; and Belarion: A Space Opera (2019) at the American Legion Center in Pasadena. As a performer, Tobin has appeared in operas including SWEET LAND, Hopscotch, a mobile opera for 24 cars, Gifts the Spirit, and Medea. In addition to being faculty at CalArts, Tobin also teaches through her Los Angeles private studio Howl Space

Related: Read a feature on Tobin and her experimental opera album BAKUNAWA in the ninth issue of CalArts’ alumnx magazine The Pool.

—Ishika Muchhal

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