Preview an Opera About New York City's Dramatic Urban Planning History


A MARVELOUS ORDER from New Amsterdam on Vimeo.

At the height of his career, urban planner Robert Moses was one of the most powerful men in New York City, responsible for many of the Big Apple’s infrastructure projects between the 1920s and 1960s. Though he presided over the creation of numerous toll bridges, parkways, and city housing projects, he is perhaps best known for a plan that failed: a project that would have put an expressway straight through the middle of Manhattan's Greenwich Village. His main opponent in that fight was a grassroots activist named Jane Jacobs, who didn’t have any formal urban planning education but fought for walkable, vibrant neighborhoods.

The dramatic 1960s fight over the Lower Manhattan Expressway is now being turned into a contemporary opera. The project has been in the works for quite a while, but it’s only now gotten a name: A Marvelous Order, a phrase taken straight out of Jacobs’ book, The Death And Life Of Great American Cities. (It was previously known as the "Untitled Opera about Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.") The underdog story, featuring Jacobs as the agitator dismissed as a simple housewife and Moses as the all-powerful “master builder” of New York City, is certainly fit for the high-drama format of the operatic stage.

With its christening, the show’s creators—including a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet—have released a sneak preview of the work-in-progress. The video includes animations by director Joshua Frankel and footage of a workshop presentation of the upcoming opera, allowing the first look at what the show will look and sound like. The creators are staging their next preview of the work on November 2. 

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