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Milli Vanilli's Fall From Grace Inspires Opera

By Janet Upadhye | January 8, 2014 7:16am
 The album cover of Milli Vanilli's "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You."
The album cover of Milli Vanilli's "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You."
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FORT GREENE — They climbed to the highest of highs, then tumbled from grace in dramatic fashion.

But this is no Shakespearean play. An original opera is taking on the real life tragi-drama of pop culture's most famous lip-synchers — Milli Vanilli.

WOW” is an experimental opera created by three Fort Greene residents covering the German pop duo's rise to fame, the on stage record malfunction that blew their cover and the press conference where Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were forced to return their Grammy award.

“Everyone knows what happened to these guys. ...It’s basically an opera already,” said professional theater director David Levine.

“These two guys wanted to be famous, they sell their voices to the devil for fame and fortune, they get fame and fortune and, when they demand their voices back, they are destroyed. “

Audience members can expect live musicians, theatrical sets and Milli Vanilli impersonators but they won’t hear “Blame It On The Rain” or “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” will be absent.

The music is a reconfigured version of Richard Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” — an opera about composing the perfect pop song — that is played live by a group of musicians.

“The musicians get fed their parts just in time and it’s never the same piece twice,” Levine said. “They play it as they receive it which leaves it prone to all kinds of glitchy repetition. “

The result will be reminiscent of “Girl You Know it’s…” skipping over and over.

Levine first thought of the idea for a Milli Vanilli opera after seeing a 2001 episode of VH1’s "Behind the Music" that was based on the duo.

“One of them dies of an overdose a couple of years after the scandal hits so for me it was a classically operatic kind of arc,” he said. “And it’s a sad one and a real one.”

Ten years later, Levine began to bring his opera to life by collaborating with musical composer Joe Diebes and poet Christian Hawkey.

The trio received an artist residency at Fort Greene’s BRIC House — a performing arts and media space — and their opera has grown from there. The show, which is still a "work-in-progress," now has dozens of participants including stage and tech crews, dancers, musicians and storytellers.

The six-episode, nearly 80-minute opera will be showing at BRIC House at 647 Fulton St. on Jan. 23 through 25 and Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 at 8 p.m.

For more information visit the BRIC Art website.