The Unidentified Flying Opera Company: Perfection

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Perfection: A Space Opera In One Act
  About Perfection   Synopsis   Creating Perfection   MCPS Teacher's Guide   Virtual Media Museum  

About Perfection

Perfection: A Space Opera in One Act  premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on April 4, 1995, as a featured performance of the "Arts Are Magic" Festival, sponsored by Washington Very Special Arts. The opera has been subsequently performed in both private and public schools throughout the Greater Washington area. During the summer of 1995, Montgomery County Public Schools Television, "Your Education Channel," produced Perfection: A Space Opera in One Act for cable television where it is broadcast frequently on Montgomery Cable Channel 60.

Perfection is true opera. The words are sung, not spoken. True to form that it is, however, Perfection is also truly accessible. The songs reflect a variety of musical styles and traditions, and were written for children to enjoy.

That the Unidentified Flying Opera Company features artists of unsurpassed musical talent is evident to anyone who sees Perfection. It must be noted in addition, however, that the members of the company are also of great humanity, believing in the creative potential of every human being and the perfecting power of love--major themes of the opera. Children who face unusual challenges are especially encouraged to participate in this program.

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[ Picture of Perfection in Outer Space]

The story takes place far, far away on the planet Yo-yo. Yo-yo rolls up and down in the sky like a giant yo-yo. Meteor showers mark its rotational reversal, every second Spring.
On Yo-yo a child is born to Zeena and Zeeno Nemps. The baby has a number of physical problems, but to her parents she is perfect, and they name her Perfection.

As is usual for people on Yo-yo, Perfection matures within ten days of her birth into a school-aged child. She has trouble speaking but is received warmly by her new teacher Ms. Oldspecs, her classmates, and the class pet, Pet, a many-headed "blues-bird." One little girl, M'Luna, gives Perfection her rubber-band ball. To everyone's astonishment and joy, Perfection can speak perfectly so long as she holds it. A pirate space-captain, Dangerous Phil, intrudes on the class. He steals many things, including Perfection's rubber-band ball. He kidnaps Perfection, taking her with him to his spaceship.

Phil's ship is destroyed in a meteor storm. Phil and Perfection return to the class. Perfection reveals what she has learned--the true identity of the pirate captain.

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Perfection: A Space Opera In One Act

By Lesley Choy

Wearing a classic career suit, she usually floats in from nowhere and alights on my shoulder. Perched, she'll cross her legs and coolly sip nectar from a teacup.

I was surprised, therefore, when she came by ambulance, wearing scrubs. Eyes burning in the naked space between a light-blue surgical mask and a matching surgical cap, she burst out of the rear double doors. There was a strong smell of ether as she came at me with a wadded washcloth.

When I regained consciousness, my muse was gone. The operation had been a success: a complete libretto sat on my desk. I felt pleased with the way that my muse had responded to the emergency. I'd been given less than two weeks to write my opera.

I flipped through the pages. Above the words were pencilled-in capital letters, combinations of the first seven letters of the alphabet. Left of some of the letters were marks for accidentals--flats, sharps, and naturals. And there were arrows--some pointing up, some pointing down.

Steve took a peek. "Only you know what this means," he said, "Come play it in."

"Couldn't I just sing--"

"No. I need to record the rhythms. Don't worry. I'll set the metronome real slow. You say this part's in four-four?"

Through my earphones I hear woodblocks. Clop, clop, clop, clop. Clop, clop, click, clop. The click means I can start.

Reading my strange notation, I play passage after passage on our synthesizer keyboard--right hand only, melody pure and simple. I try to play as mechanically as possible, avoiding interpretation, trying to keep the rhythm strict. Our synthesizer and our computer work together, digitizing and storing what I play, transcribing it into standard music notation, and depicting the music representationally through graph displays.

We go at it for several days. Each passage requires more than one take, sometimes many takes. Steve edits constantly, viewing displays and working tonal and rhythmic corrections from the computer keyboard. At last we have a bare-bones vocal score. Our work has only begun.

We discuss the music, discuss what I'm after: What's the mood here? In this part how much impetus do we want? This tempo okay? Organ or piano? Solo or duet? Major? Minor? A gospel treatment here? Are you sure?

And now it's Steve's show. He creates fully orchestrated musical arrangements, selecting his synthesized "instruments" from a palette of hundreds of conventional and exotic sounds. He chooses violin and "magic bells," french horn and "the machine," tuba, guitar, "space cowboy," "grim reaper," "angels," piano, "cyber space," and many more. Painstakingly, he overlays the sounds, playing-in one at a time, tune after tune, building our soundtrack. But Steve is a guitarist, not a keyboard artist, so the work goes slowly. Too slowly.

Enter Carlos, world-class pianist and true friend. He sits at our keyboard. He rolls up his sleeves. He spends over ten hours this day and six hours the next playing brilliantly executed on-the-spot improvisations of our music. We print one of Carlos's improvisations. It's so dense that there's hardly any white space left on the paper!
It's Steve's show once again. He prunes Carlos's improvisations, thinning and separating the dense clusters of notes into distinct, fluid strands of music. To each strand Steve assigns instrumentation, thereby orchestrating the larger whole of our work. Steve adds his own touches, and we have a finished score. Our computer performs it through our synthesizer, and our printer spews it out for distribution to our cast.

They like us at the Kennedy Center. They love us at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School. It's time to do TV. Are we through with our computer? Not on your life.

Son David creates computer art, most notably a constellation, cows, a cosmic ice-cream cone, a clock, our flying opera-hat, and lightning bolts. Steve supplements David's computer art with a little of his own, generating backgrounds, a planet, meteors, and the words to the prologue. Steve then animates the art, which is later combined with live action for what may be an opera first.

We have only two days for shooting the action and three days for post-production work. Done. So what have we got for you?

On the one hand we have traditional opera. We have singers representing a mix of vocal types performing arias, recitatives, and songs for more than one voice. We have scene changes. We have a chorus. Unlikely and highly melodramatic is our plot.

But our opera is different, too. To be sure, it's Ms. Oldspecs--not Miss or Mrs., thank you. Adults play children and children play adults. There's animation. Voices are used for what conventionally would be handled instrumentally. The setting is in outer space impossibillions of light years away. And whereas it's nothing new for the music in an opera to reflect the folk music of a particular culture, our music reflects a diversity cultures, a diversity of traditions. Finally our opera is different because of something you can't see or hear. It's different because, being computer generated, the score is flexible. Because keys can be changed with little ado, a baritone can play a part one time, a soprano play it next.

Time for me to find someone who gets cable. Hope you enjoy the show.

—Lesley Choy, Writer/Director

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Teaching A Once And Future Opera: The Music Teacher's Companion to the MCPS TV Production of Perfection: A Space Opera In One Act

by Lesley Choy


Perfection: A Space Opera in One Act adheres to the conventions of traditional opera in some respects and departs from them in others. It is hoped that the following teacher's guide, synopsis, and libretto will be useful to you as you introduce your students to opera and help them identify Perfection's traditional and non-traditional features. Duplication of the synopsis and libretto for distribution in class is permitted, but it is requested that all such duplications remain at school.


Perfection Is Opera

Opera, by definition, is a play having all or most of its text set to music, with arias, recitatives, choruses, duets, trios, etc. sung to orchestral accompaniment. Perfection presents all of opera's defining features, stretching convention only in respect to "orchestral accompaniment."

During the course of the following activities, your students will discover, among other things, that the orchestra that played Perfection's television soundtrack was comprised of but a single instrument--the electronic synthesizer.



  1. An opera's words are sung.
    Dialogue from age-appropriate literature is selected. (Student "core books" are good resources here.) Working in pairs or small groups, students assume roles and practice their dialogue, first speaking and then improvisationally singing their parts. Teacher may wish to call on volunteering groups to present their sung dialogues, or "mini-operas," to the class.

  2. Opera features arias.
    An aria is an air or melody appearing in an opera; arias are usually sung solo. The following are three of the arias featured in Perfection: A Space Opera in One Act: "Schnitzel Frodd-Fropp," sung by Perfection; "This Is My Very Own Rubber-Band Ball," sung by M'Luna; and "They Call Me Dangerous Lil," sung by Captain Lil.

    Teacher displays the following character names as column headings across board/screen: Zeena, Zeeno, Doctor 1, Doctor 2, Chief Transport Officer, Perfection, Ms. Oldspecs, Pet, M'Luna, Science Chair, and Lil. Teacher asks students to try to recall and describe specific arias sung by characters whose names are displayed. Responses are recorded under appropriate headings.

  3. Opera features recitatives.
    A recitative is a declamatory operatic passage which retains the rhythm and tempo of speech while being uttered in musical tones. Lil's admonishment of Pet, as the pirate prepares to abduct Perfection, is an example of a recitative.

    Teacher displays texts shown below. Volunteers are called upon in turn to select and perform one of the texts as an improvised recitative:

    This isn't funny, Robert. Go get my shoe. Why did you have to throw it on the roof? Go get it NOW!

    Didn't you know? I'm a cat who can talk! And I have some complaints: I haven't had pizza in six months; they won't give me cream—only water; and ever since they hung this stupid bell around my neck, the birds all get away!

  4. Opera features choruses, duets, trios, etc.
    Teacher displays the following as column headings across board/screen: duet, trio, quartet, chorus. Teacher calls upon students to identify examples of duets, trios, quartets, and choruses featured in Perfection. Each response is recorded under appropriate category heading.

  5. Opera features orchestral accompaniment.
    Please note: For the following activity to be successful, the teacher must initially refrain from identifying the nature of Perfection's orchestra. That Perfection's orchestral score was generated by an electronic synthesizer is soon revealed.

    Teacher uses the following questions to guide students in discussion: Was all the music in Perfection sung? What other kind of music was there? Could you see who was playing it? What instruments do you suppose there were? Were there woodwind? Brass? String? Percussion? Anything else? What would you say if I told you there was only one instrument? Does anyone know what that instrument could have been? How can one instrument have so many different voices?

Perfection Is Innovative Opera

On paper and in production, Perfection now and again parts with custom. Here are some of the opera's unusual or innovative features, for you to highlight for your class:

  • The setting is unusual--13.682 impossibillion light years from here on the planet Yo-yo.

  • Certain sets and scenery--as well as certain non-singing characters, such as cows--are produced through computer art and animation. (The "static" quality of stationary sets and scenery is thus avoided.)

  • Special effects are used to have characters perform spectacular acrobatic and anti-gravitational feats!

  • As the score is computer-generated, changes in key and instrumentation can be made easily. The capacity to easily change keys gives the director latitude in casting. Depending on whom she prefers, she can cast a baritone or a tenor in a role.

  • The cast features children playing adults and adults playing children.

  • The teacher in the story is addressed by the title, Ms.--not Mrs. or Miss. (This may be the first time that Ms. appears in an opera.)

  • In the "Going Up" canon, voices are used for what conventionally would have been handled instrumentally.

  • Whereas certain operas draw from the music of a particular culture, Perfection reflects a diversity of musical traditions and styles. (Reflections of Irish, English, German, Spanish, and American traditions appear in Perfection.)

Students can find out more about Perfection: A Space Opera In One Act from the World Wide Web. Check out the home page of The Unidentified Flying Opera Company at

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The Perfection Virtual Media Museum


Welcome to the transport lobby!

Please select your starting destination:

Real-Space Wing
Photo Gallery

Outer Space Wing
Sound Gallery

Umbrella Nebula
News Reviews 

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Moments captured and displayed as digital signal light projections.

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Maximum mass: .06 lbs

Longitudinal vibrations captured and oscillated in your local ambience.

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Maximum mass: .24 lbs

Analysis of past performance records in HTML format.

*Quick 2nd gateway access now accessible to class 203-91 beings. If your are a 203-91, or 203-93 being,  press [green] on your skin embedded control system now.

Transporter System Statistics
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Beam Frequency 9e9 GHz
Energy Dispersion Rate 5e9^2 Volts

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