Miami Opera Theater Presents Hydrogen Jukebox


Award-winning Miami Opera Theater (MUOT) presents the regional premiere of Philip Glass' opera Hydrogen Jukebox, based on the life of Allen Ginsberg. When live performance had to pause last year due to the pandemic, Miami Opera Theater responded by capturing live opera on film to safely share with audiences in their homes. In addition to streaming on YouTube November 15 -30, the return of live performances is offering the group an opportunity to stream the film in front of a live audience as part of the Performing Arts Series in the Gates-Abegglen Theatre on November 21, at 2 p.m.

A week after the close of the 2020 production of Le Nozze di Figaro, Miami Opera Theater received word that the University was going online. In realizing the significance of this event, they began planning for a project that would facilitate the training of singers in a less traditional format. Over the next few months, a careful plan for a film project was developed that would require the acquisition of new skills, flexibility, patience, and unrelenting persistence.

Hydrogen Jukebox is the result of a fascinating collaboration between avant-garde composer Philip Glass and Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg after a chance meeting at St. Mark’s bookstore in New York in 1988. Glass invited Ginsberg to join him in a performance to benefit veterans of the Vietnam war. At the performance, Ginsberg read his anti-war poem Wichita Vortex Sutra while Glass improvised at the piano. This began a collaboration that would result in the Chamber Opera Hydrogen Jukebox that premiered at the Spoleto Festival in 1990. In the work, they envisioned a theatrical portrait of America. Ginsberg selected poems for the work that address societal topics such as social protest, violence, environmental destruction, drugs, endless war, and sexual identity.

During the Fall semester, the orchestra recorded the soundtrack from their homes using a click track that was then edited together in the studio. Christina Haan and Ben Smolder prepared singers in small groups in large indoor and outdoor spaces. In January, students returned two weeks before the opening of the Spring semester, were tested, quarantined, and then moved in together to create a safe work environment for the recording process. Ben Smolder shared, “The vocal recording represents the first time we were able to sing all together in over a year. It was a sacred event.”

In October of 2020, MU Opera began filming on location at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum to capture the final scene of Ginsberg entering the Buddha field. To capture this strange world, they collaborated with Icelandic artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir who created a series of sculptures entitled Borders. The life-size sculptures of humans scattered through the beautiful fall landscape presented the perfect atmosphere to express the space between life and death.

The majority of the film was shot in Gates-Abegglen Theater during the summer of 2021 with additional filming locations in collaboration with the American Sign Museum, Sugar n’ Spice Café, and the Cincinnati Mural Project.

Miami University Opera Theater is an important part of the rich and diverse musical experiences that Miami University has to offer. MU Opera is unique in its design because it operates with a professional production team committed to supporting student performers.

The movie trailer is found at

If you go:

The live showing will be in conjunction with the Department of Theatre's Fringe Festival.
Hydrogen Jukebox
Gates-Abegglen Theatre
Center for Performing Arts
Nov 21, 20212 p.m.
FREE and open to the public