The Slumber Thief

new operatic multimedia music-theater

commissioned by Opera Cabal 

High Concept Laboratories 

Chicago, IL

November 2012

film/video: Rob Dietz

dramaturgy: Joseph Cermatori

original composition: Phyllis Chen

production photography: Greg Lutz

commissioning producer: Majel Connery (Opera Cabal)


A new commission by Opera Cabal's OperaSHOP series -- which pairs dramaturgs with small teams of artists working outside of opera to explore cutting-edge approaches to recombining music and theater -- "The Slumber Thief" features the New York-based toy piano and video duo, Phyllis Chen and Robert Dietz working together with dramaturg Joseph Cermatori. 

The piece conjures a minutely expressive dreamscape using toy pianos, music boxes, and an array of sonic and visual oddities. Praised by the New York Times for her "delightful quirkiness," Chen's collaborations with Dietz evoke the minutely expressive fabric of a child's unconscious, both fabulous and terrifying. 

"The Slumber Thief" was developed and premiered during a residency period at Chicago's performance space High Concept Laboratories in Autumn 2012, with subsequent performances, screenings, and discussions at University of Chicago's Logan Center and Fulton Hall. It was presented in conjunction with "The Scale Model: An Interdiscplinary Symposium," convened by the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. The piece had its New York City premiere at the music and intermedia arts venue, Roulette.

"[Chen and Dietz use] the voice as sound, rather than as a tool for delivering narrative information. Instead, the work of world building and storytelling falls to the visuals -- lines of fairy tale text on inch-high books, camera angles borrowed from B horror movies and Chen herself, the puppeteer, in plain sight." 
Edge Boston