Immersive operetta ‘Alien Wanderers: Alien World: Alien Home’ takes on modern topics of border, discrimination

Meghan Holland

With no physical barriers or a stage between the audience and the performers, “Alien Wanderers: Alien World: Alien Home” by opera composer Nathan Felix takes on the task of addressing discrimination and issues surrounding the United States’ southern border. 

An immersive opera is different from a typical opera in that it engages the audience in a more interactive way. Singers move and sing throughout the audience, and the absence of a stage is representative of the lack of a barrier between the two groups. The performers and the audience members feed off of each other, shaping the storyline and movement. 

Felix sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss what went into the production of this condensed opera, called an operetta.

Daily Texan: What is the overall purpose of this operetta?

Nathan Felix: The production is definitely to give a unique experience musically. (“Alien Wanderers: Alien World: Alien Home”) is inspired by the Blanton exhibition … Medieval Monsters. I used themes from some of the artwork, and I incorporated (them in) an inspirational way into the piece. (The artwork) deals a lot with marginalized groups, reappropriation of borders and things that are happening right now, (so the operetta portrays that) in a modern way.

DT: Why did you choose to tell the story as an immersive operetta?

NF: I would never not do an immersive opera. I don’t really have (an) interest in just doing something on a stage, so when I talked to the Blanton about having a performance, I told him that I wanted to continue to do my immersive works. I’d like to break down the stage, meaning there’s no stage or no wall between performers and audience. 

DT: What was the process like of composing this operetta and what motivated you to tell this particular story?

NF: Blanton sent me about three or four different exhibitions to choose from, and I connected with this one in terms of content that I wanted to produce before I even wrote a note. I also had a singer in mind already, Katrina Saporsantos, when I chose Medieval Monsters, and I thought that her look and voice was something I could incorporate into this type of piece. 

DT: This is a highly debated and controversial topic right now in the news media. What do you hope people take away from the opera?

NF: I hope people dig a little deeper into the meaning behind it, and in some way (I hope to) either create a conversation or at least pique their awareness a little more. At the same time, I also know that from my experience of doing these type of immersive performances, the production is also something that is often new to audience members who haven’t seen my work. That could be a distraction, and that’s OK because maybe that’ll make them remember it. And then when the time is right, they (will) want to look it up or ponder on what they experienced overall.

DT: What was the most challenging part of preparing this operetta? 

NF: I think I’m in the most challenging part right now where we’re trying to rehearse the movement. Even though I give sort of the basic structure of movement, you always have that variable of the audience that we can never predict where or how they’ll move or how they’ll receive it. I’m trying to direct my performers in a way that they know we have our main path, but if the audience (responds a certain way), you have to adapt to them. It’s unpredictable.