The Sight of Sound: Squonk Opera’s “Mayhem and Majesty” at Harbison Theatre March 2-3

Performing arts ensemble Squonk Opera will perform their musical show “Mayhem and Majesty” at the Harbison Theatre March 2 at 7:30 p.m. and March 3 at 2 p.m.

Formed 1992 in Pittsburgh, Squonk Opera has performed over 250 concerts across the U.S. and toured internationally. In 2011, they reached the quarterfinals of “America’s Got Talent” season six.

Squonk Opera consists of a core duo, composer Jackie Dempsey and show designer Steve O’Hearn, who collaborate with several other artists and musicians for each show. The ensemble, christened by Dempsey, was named after the term “squonk-fest,” an onomatopoeia for a jazz saxophonist’s performance.

In “Mayhem and Majesty,” Squonk Opera poses a question: what does music look like?

“One thing we always kind of dance around is the issue of what imagery combines with what music, and how and when, and the different kind of abstract dynamics—the lights and the darks, and the fasts and the slows, and the bigs and the smalls,” said O’Hearn. “We thought we would approach that directly, and we looked at a lot of psychology books about both listening to and making music, and the physics and acoustics of sound waves, and that became the subject of this show.”

The show features a complex series of sound amplification, image projection and live feeds, which creates a visualized representation of music. One scene from the show, the most complicated according to O’Hearn, turns the stage into a singing, multimedia face.

“Essentially the whole stage becomes a dreamlike head in different mediums, in both projection and some live feed and props,” said O’Hearn. “It’s really in general about letting the audience make up their own kind of narratives and their own reasons and follow these abstract dynamics of images and sound that that kind of directly deal with that issue.“

Tickets to “Mayhem and Majesty” are $20 and can be bought online through Harbison Theatre’s website.

-- By Giesela Lubecke