‘His Life Really Is the Stuff of Opera': Bay Area Composer Reimagines Steve Jobs' Life as an Opera

Steve Jobs' life story has been remade into Hollywood films, a TV-movie and now an opera. Rife with tension and contradictions, composer Mason Bates said the tech mogul's story was made for the stage.

In his latest piece, "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs," Bates fused traditional theatrics with the 21st century story to create the popular piece.

With nearly every seat sold out at its world premiere in Santa Fe, New Mexico, NBC Bay Area caught up with the Burlingame-based composer to find out what makes Jobs' life so riveting to audiences around the country. 

Questions and answers have been edited for brevity: 

What gave you the idea to make an opera about Steve Jobs?

"I looked at the life of Steve Jobs, and I found that it has all of these interesting tensions," Bates said. "Opera has to be full of tension because the tension release is the blood and guts of opera."

Jobs was adopted as a baby, refused to acknowledge his first child for many years and died young at the age of 56.

"He had passion, obsession and his story includes death," Bates said. "It includes love." 

However, he realizes some are hesitant to merge modern day characters with the opera stage.

"You think, Steve Jobs?" Bates said. "Wait a minute. How does he fit into the opera house, which usually tackles subjects like lovers' long past or that kind of thing, but when you look at Steve Jobs, his life really is the stuff of opera."

Why do you think the story of Steve Jobs resonates with people?

"I think what's happening is that so many people carry a little piece of Steve Jobs around in their pocket," Bates said. "They have a relationship to the subject in a very personal way."

Aside from Steve Jobs, what is the story about?

"His story is one that accumulates a challenge we all face: how do we take all of our beautiful messiness of human communication and cram it into these little devices?" Bates said. "That kind of tension between the beautiful minimalism of these devices and the beautiful messiness of human life is what this opera is all about."

Bates says the opera also focuses on Jobs' search for inner peace.

Major characters aside from Jobs, played by Edward Parks, is Steve Wozniak and Laurene Powell, the wife of Jobs.

What's next for the production?

After finishing at the Santa Fe Opera next year, the production will run in Seattle for the 2018-2019 season and finish at the San Francisco Opera during the 2019-2020 season.

"I think opera as a medium for this story is a really powerful idea, and the reception we’ve had has just been so gratifying," Bates said.

To learn more about the opera, visit the Santa Fe Opera website.

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