“In a mysterious motor lodge…along a desolate stretch of highway in the American desert, customers pay for the usual amenities — a room, a pool, a lounge. But here, they also pay to be reunited with lost loves of all kinds…”
June 2021 brings the premiere of “desert in,” a new, operatic television miniseries featuring original music written by Michael Abels. Abels is among eight, award-winning composers who were commissioned by the Boston Lyric Opera to create music for this groundbreaking project. “Desert in” was created by composer Ellen Reid, playwright Christopher Oscar Peña, and director James Darrah, and co-produced in association with the Long Beach Opera. Each composer was paired with a librettist, with each team continuing the story line throughout the series. Filmed in Palm Springs, CA, “desert in’s” episodes range from 10 – 20 minutes each. “Desert in” premieres on June 3, 2021 on Boston Lyric Opera’s new streaming platform operabox.tv, and features two episodes, which will be subsequently followed by two more episodes every Thursday during the month of June.
“Desert in” revolves around two couples: Cass and Sunny, the innkeepers at a remote motor lodge called the Desert Inn, who are celebrating a milestone anniversary; and new guests Ion and Rufus, who are celebrating their honeymoon. Cass and Ion harbor secrets from their lovers, and money exchanges hands to ensure everyone’s happiness. “Desert in” showcases a blend of striking new music ranging from lush, classical compositions to jazz, cabaret, electronic soundscape to cinematic sweep, and more. The film features both on-screen and off-screen actors. Three of the featured on-screen performers are shown singing; other actors are complemented by performers who are not seen, but whose voices are heard on the soundtrack. The effect places the story in a dreamlike universe that’s not quite earthbound, not quite celestial.
“It’s been amazing fun to watch this project coalesce,” Abels shares. Abels’ score is featured in the Episode 8 series finale “Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us,” and was written with librettist Roxie Perkins. James Darrah directs. Abels continues. “All the music was written and recorded first, and then the episodes were filmed to the score. Because ‘desert in’ has a through story line with characters that the audience will have met for seven episodes prior to mine, it was important that I follow the libretto carefully, and let my music narrate the conclusion of the entire story. But the creative team left the style of the music for each episode up to the composers. So, because the series is set in Palm Springs with a cast of quirky, love-crossed characters, I wrote in a very mid-20th-century-yet-tonal style, perhaps inspired by the Mid-Century Modern architecture that is so much a part of the California desert. There is a cabaret singer in the lounge of the Desert Inn, so I gave her a sultry bossa nova number; and there is a section of wordless trance music, inspired by the mood of the character during that scene. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.” Episode 8 – showcasing Abel’s music – airs on June 24.
To learn more about the “desert in” miniseries, visit The Boston Lyric Opera or the Long Beach Opera. To watch “desert in,” go to operabox.tv to register and subscribe for the entire series, or to view by episode.