Move over, Madame Bovary, because Milli Vanilli is back.
The tragic tale of ’80s pop stars Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus is being turned into an opera.
In 1990, the pop duo took home the Grammy title of Best New Artist after their debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, became a mega-hit lead by chart-topping singles Girl You Know It’s True and “Blame It On The Rain”. Unfortunately, it soon came to light that the band’s photogenic front men, Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, weren’t the singers heard on the tracks, but models and dancers chosen to front the band by German producer Frank Farian. The group was stripped of their Grammy Award and, after a failed comeback attempt using their real voices, the duo disappeared. While Morvan continues making music, Pilatus became involved with drugs and eventually committed suicide.
Like many artists, where most people see tragedy, composer Joe Diebes, poet Christian Hawkey and director David Levine, found inspiration. They saw the tale of Milli Vanilli – a manufactured pop act whose rise and fall became a musical cautionary tale – as a story full of potential operatic drama. So, they wrote an opera called WOW (Work-in-Progress), which will premiere in Brooklyn on Jan. 23.
Aside from their story being inherently operatic, in terms of the Faustian bargain the duo made with the German pop producer Frank Farian, Mr. Diebes said in an interview with the New York Times, I am interested in the machinery that surrounded and ultimately destroyed them.”
The opera incorporates not only Milli Vanill’s songs, but also transcripts from press conferences, promotional videos and interviews, which will play as the audience moves through the performance space. Included in the show? The Carefree sugarless gum commercial where the duo lip-synced opera, before anyone knew how ironic that really was.
WOW, a work in progress, will run from Jan. 23 to Feb. 1 at Brooklyn’s BRIC Arts Performance Space.
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