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Stewart Copeland, co-founder of the rock band The Police, will oversee the collegiate premiere of his opera “The Invention of Morel” at Manchester University.
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Musical Icon Stewart Copeland Talks to Oak Leaves

Carly Greaves

Stewart Copeland, composer of opera and founding drummer for The Police, will arrive at Manchester in a couple weeks to oversee the collegiate premiere of his latest work, “The Invention of Morel.”

This opera was the focus of the Opera Workshop class this past January, and will be performed on Feb. 28 and 29 at the Honeywell Center in Wabash, featuring a cast of Manchester students, alumni and community members. To prepare for the performance, students studied not only the opera, but the novel that it was based on—“The Invention of Morel” by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Both novel and opera tell the tale of a fugitive who hides on a mysterious island, only to discover that a group of interesting individuals also live there, though they are not all that they seem. The opera, already an intriguing combination of science fiction, romance and black comedy, is made more unique by its composer—Stewart Copeland.

Copeland’s musical career started at an early age; the musician realized his talent with drums and got his first gig when he was in his teens. While he had other jobs involving music, such as being a roadie and a journalist for a drumming magazine, they did not satisfy him like playing music did. “Music chose me,” Copeland said, in a telephone interview. “I tried a few other things, but music just seemed to always drag me back in.”

This desire led to the American Copeland co-founding, with two British musicians, the rock band The Police, and arguably Copeland’s greatest claim to fame. The Police was popular during the late ’70s and early ’80s, producing well-known songs such as “Every Breath You Take,” “Roxanne” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” While the band was only active for about seven years (not including a brief reunion tour in 2007), it had a considerable effect on Copeland’s music. “All three of us learned so much from each other,” Copeland said. “Each of us have done a lot of growing since then, but really . . . we’ve put a stamp on each other for the rest of our lives.”

It might seem unusual that a successful rock musician would choose to go into the far-different world of opera, but that is exactly what Copeland did. When he was commissioned by the Cleveland Opera Theater to write his first opera, “Holy Blood and Crescent Moon,” he was not a fan of the genre. However, while working on the commission he not only began to like opera but also desired to make accessible opera. “My stuff does have an underlying sensibility of populist music,” Copeland explained. “I’m not trying to get an ‘A’ in composition; I want to light up the room.”

“The Invention of Morel,” one of Copeland’s latest operas, proved to be a unique challenge. As Copeland explained, stage productions depend on time moving forward naturally, but “The Invention of Morel” involves, as he put it, “time interrupted, inverted, upside down and backwards.” Copeland managed to turn this confusion of time to his favor, adding to the mystery of the plot.

With all of this in mind, Copeland is eager to see how the students of Manchester perform this complex opera. He is particularly curious to see how his work fares in a relatively small Indiana community, hoping to see the opera “live its own life,” as he put it, “forge its own destiny, according to its own merits.” Since Copeland will only be arriving a few days before the premiere, his role will mostly be that of a keen spectator. “Now I know how Shakespeare would have felt if he had lived for another couple centuries,” Copeland jokingly said. “You see your work reinterpreted. I’m mostly grateful and appreciative of their efforts and look kindly upon any interpretation or reinterpretation that they might have engaged in.”

Copeland is not the only one eager to see how this performance turns out—the Manchester cast members are more than ready to show what their rehearsals have to offer. “It’s a very interesting story,” said Emily Lynn, senior, and the actress playing Faustine in the opera. “[Also], not a whole lot of people know what talented singers we have at Manchester.”

Clayton Marcum, senior and the actor playing Morel, is also ready. “Being a part of a collegiate premiere has been an honor,” he said, “and I would love to share this experience with everyone.”

“The Invention of Morel,” created from the experience of a long-time musician and the enthusiasm of young performers, promises a unique experience to all those who watch it, be they fans of opera, rock or anything in between.