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Digital Subscriptions > Opera Now > March 2017 > Prototype Festival

Prototype Festival

Festival focus

New York’s fifth annual Prototype Festival, a key source for the new and different in opera, opened with the world premiere of Mata Hari by Matt Marks. This piece about the Dutch-born exotic dancer and courtesan who was executed as a spy in 1917, is structured as a series of flashbacks from her prison. Zeroing in on the men who used and betrayed her, it tries to get to the human core of a mysterious figure.

First-time librettist Paul Peers, who also directed, tried to jam too much information into 90 minutes, making it hard to follow if you didn’t know the story, which involved marriage at 19 to an abusive, syphilitic army officer; the Russian pilot she fell in love with; and the Byzantine saga of how she began spying. In this telling, she did it all for love.

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