Robert Ashley's Opera "Perfect Lives"

By Charles Kessler

Yesterday I attended Robert Ashley's 1980s opera "Perfect Lives" – a day-long event that took place in seven different venues spread out all over Jersey City. It was presented by Con Vivo Music and Art House Productions, and enthusiastically performed by Varispeed. 

The opera was originally made as half-hour videos for television, but it was adapted and arranged by Verispeed for a live performance. As is typical of Ashley's operas, it was a rhythmically spoken-word score reminiscent of fifties beat poetry, with one or two narrators, a chorus occasionally interjecting, and the music more or less in the background. 

It was a thrilling occasion – a pleasure that got better and better as the day went on. Here are some photos:
11am, The Park (Bay Street at Newark Ave.).1:30pm, The Bank (Provident Bank).3pm, The Supermarket (Key Food).5pm, The Church (St. Paul Lutheran).7pm, The Back Yard (Harsimus Cemetery - Photo: Neil Glassman).9pm, The Living Room (Barrow Mansion).11pm, The Bar (Brightside Tavern).