The starting point for Professor Paul Barker’s double-bill is how to do opera without a voice. Not just a singing voice, but without any voice at all. My Voice and Me is the autobiography of Oliver Curry, an English tenor who lost his voice as a result of rehearsing I Pagliacci in Naples many decades ago; it left him voiceless, unable to make any sound. He tells the story today with the aid of a synthetic voice (which sounds uncannily like Stephen Hawking) whilst simultaneously playing the piano. Oliver’s wife, soprano Maria Bovino, makes an unexpected guest appearance.
Of Zoë and the Woman I Sing is a comic melodrama, exploring in three acts the relationship between an artist and his muse and how she finally escapes. The muse is Zoë Lister, the actress whom Toshiba (UK) created the talking emotional head known as Xpressive Talk (TM), an emotional avatar. Paul Barker helped Zoe prepare for the research with Toshiba. He subsequently wrote the script for the three act melodrama involving Zoë, the avatar and himself as the “artist” playing the piano, in the Tête à Tête Opera Festival, 2016.