Ya gotta love those kooky classical music students over at Portland State University! Who else would come up with a new opera involving a quartet of brain-sucking zombies? Classical music in Portland may never be the same.

The opera in question, "Maelstrom: A Zombie Opera," opens this Friday night with a first-rate cast of PSU student singers and instrumentalists, at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center for a nine-performance run (tickets, $5-$10, are online here). Yesterday I caught up with 28 year old PSU student composer Reed Reimer, half of the brains behind the beast (the other half is student Ben Larson), wondering uh, what the hell's he thinking about anyway, composing this "zombie opera"??

He claims the idea came to him out of the blue. "After I thought writing a zombie opera would be cool, I read some zombie opera guides," he says, adding the opera is really "more about relationships that exist in a world where there are zombies," than a thorough psychological examination of the zombies themselves. He's quick to add that the opera contains graphic sexuality, violence and simulated drug use, and is recommended for ages 16 and up. In other words: perfect for Blogtown readers!

Stephen Marc Beaudoin: What makes your opera a "zombie opera"?
Reed Reimer: It’s like any dramatic opera, except that instead of peasants and kings, there’s regular people and zombies.

SMB: Fair enough. So, I understand the word "maelstrom" to mean a whirlpool-like force of nature. Are you suggesting that your opera is that awesome in its power and scope?
RR: Ya know, Ben and I would like to think so. But the “maelstrom” can also mean this zombie-ism is happening and this whirlpool is sucking people in and shaking up their lives. And in the opera, the virus that causes zombie-ism is actually called "maelstrom."


SMB: So you've got zombies. I'm expecting blood. Exactly how much blood is used in this production?
RR: That’s a really good question. We haven’t run it with blood yet. We have an effects team working on things right now. I know there’ll be some prosthetics used in the show to allow the zombie characters to, you know, rip apart human characters. As to the amount of blood, that’s yet to be seen.

SMB: Let’s talk about the music. To Blogtown readers who say, like, YAWN!, when they hear the word opera, give a pitch as to what makes this worth hearing.
RR: We termed it 'opera' because there are classical music elements involved, but really it’s like rock and roll with a chamber orchestra, and it’s not completely sung, there is spoken dialogue in the show.

SMB: So already you’ve mentioned flying prosthetic limbs and the potential for buckets of blood and simulated drug use onstage. Does PSU sanction the contents of this work?
RR: Umm, ya know, that’s… we have never sought their approval in this work. I don’t know if we had to or not. Hmm.

SMB: Were any real zombies consulted during the writing of this opera?
RR: You know, no. Just the survivors.