Santa Fe Opera announced the 2017 world premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs

Mason Bates
Santa Fe Opera

Composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell collaborate on an original opera based on the life of one of the greatest innovators of our time

General Director Charles MacKay announced today Santa Fe Opera’s next commission, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, which will have its world premiere in 2017 as a part of the company’s 61st season. The opera will be composed by Mason Bates, one of America’s most acclaimed and popular composers, with an original libretto by Mark Campbell, who was the librettist for the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, Silent Night. Stage Director Kevin Newbury, who brought both Theodore Morrison’s Oscar (2013) and Lewis Spratlan’s Life is a Dream (2010) to the stage in Santa Fe, will be joined by Michael Christie, Music Director for Minnesota Opera, who makes his company debut leading the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra.

“Riding on the heels of Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer’s Cold Mountain, which received both audience and critical acclaim at its world premiere on Saturday, it is a thrill to announce Santa Fe Opera’s next major commission, “ said General Director Charles MacKay.The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs will mark the Company’s 15th world premiere, continuing the tradition of producing work that pushes the boundaries of the art form. We are delighted to take this journey into the life and legacy of a distinctly American figure through the creative genius of Mason Bates and Mark Campbell.”

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is a new opera that examines the life of one of the most fascinating figures of our time; an innovator who simplified communication with sleek devices, but who paradoxically learned that complex human relationships require more than one button to work. The opera starts at a moment in Jobs’ life when he must face his own mortality and circles back to the events and people in his past that shaped and inspired him: his father Paul, Zen Buddhism, his relationship with a woman whose child he initially disowned, his quick rise and fall as mogul, and – most importantly – his wife Laurene, who showed him the power of love and connection. The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs will attempt to capture the buzzing creative realm of Silicon Valley with a kinetic electro-acoustic score, lush vocal writing, a compelling non-linear narrative, and a production as innovative as the man himself. 

"Santa Fe Opera's impact on the creation and dissemination of new opera is simply astonishing, and I've been so thankful to visit several times over the past ten years,” said composer Mason Bates. “The superb productions of works new and old, combined with the stunning setting, have made it an essential pilgrimage for me. I'm honored to bring the story of Steve Jobs to this wonderful house and look forward to many more visits in the course of its creation." 

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is librettist Mark Campbell’s first collaboration with composer Mason Bates: “Mason’s brilliance at infusing the orchestra with electronica makes him uniquely poised to create a score for this opera that will evoke the innovative and mercurial nature of its subject,” said Campbell. “Audiences at Santa Fe Opera will be treated to a new kind of energy coming from the stage and the pit.” This production also signifies Campbell’s tertiary collaborations with both director Kevin Newbury and conductor Michael Christie, who with composer Kevin Puts, most recently collaborated on The Manchurian Candidate for Minnesota Opera.

This commission will receive its first workshop in San Francisco (September 2015) in collaboration with Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, and with additional support from San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Workshops play a key role in the commissioning process of Santa Fe Opera, illuminating what works well dramatically and musically, and allowing both composer and librettist to test their ideas before the work reaches the stage.

Recently named the second most-performed living composer, Mason Bates currently serves as the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His music fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of techno, and it has been the first symphonic music to receive widespread acceptance for its unique integration of electronic sounds. Leading conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Leonard Slatkin have championed his diverse catalogue. He has become a visible advocate for bringing new music to new spaces, whether through institutional partnerships such as his residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or through his club/classical project Mercury Soul, which has transformed spaces ranging from commercial clubs to Frank Gehry-designed concert halls into exciting, hybrid musical events drawing over a thousand people. In awarding Bates the Heinz Medal, Teresa Heinz remarked that “his music has moved the orchestra into the digital age and dissolved the boundaries of classical music.”

Bates’ activities as a DJ have highly informed not only his compositional approach, but his distinctive curating projects. As part of his multi-year residency, he will work with the Kennedy Center’s broad range of artistic constituents, from performances with the National Symphony to appearances with Jason Moran on Kennedy Center Jazz, often integrating electronica artists into the Center’s unique spaces. He is launching a new-music series, KC Jukebox, that will feature the immersive production and eclectic programming for which his curating projects have become known.

This season marks the release of much of his music on CD. As part of the San Francisco Symphony’s Beethoven & Bates Festival, the SFS will release three of his largest works, Alternative Energy, Liquid Interface, and The B-Sides. A forthcoming CD by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project will complement this with some of his most-performed works, from Mothership to Rusty Air Carolina. Also this season, the San Francisco Symphony will premiere Auditorium, which will incorporate the sounds of ancient instruments into the orchestral palette.

Continuing performances of his music have demonstrated that electronic sounds can be a welcome addition to the orchestral palette with minimal logistics. While Bates often performs the electronica onstage with orchestras, dozens of repeat performances of his symphonic music happen without him. For more information, go to and

Mark Campbell has written librettos for fifteen operas and lyrics for five musicals. His most known opera is Silent Night, which garnered the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for composer Kevin Puts, was aired on PBS’ Great Performances and has entered the modern opera repertory with an unprecedented rapidity. Other successful operas include: Volpone, Later the Same Evening, Bastianello/Lucrezia, Rappahannock County, The Inspector, As One, and, most recently, The Manchurian Candidate. Mark has received a Grammy nomination, three Drama Desk Award nominations, two Richard Rodgers Awards, the Domenic J. Pellicicotti Prize, a New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship, and was the first recipient of the Kleban Foundation Award for Lyricist. He also serves as a mentor for American Opera Projects, Washington National Opera’ s American Opera Initiative, American Lyric Theatre and Opera Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence program. In the next two years he will premiere seven new operas, including The Shining (Minnesota Opera), Memory Boy (Minnesota Opera), Body Business (Music-Theatre Group), Dinner at Eight (Minnesota Opera), When To Say Nothing (HGOco) and E. Cree (Opera Philadelphia). For more information, go to