William Berger and Laurent David on Their Jazz Metal Opera La Suspendida – March 12 at Nublu

La Suspendida, the opera in jazz and metal produced by Laurent David, with music by Kilter and a libretto by William Berger, will be performed in full at Nublu on March 12. The opera tells the real-life-based story of María Elena, a Cuban-American young woman in Key West treated for tuberculosis by a German doctor who became obsessed with her, and after her death, kept her body for seven years. “Suspendida” is María Elena being suspended between worlds in a relationship that continues beyond death, brought to life (pun totally intended) by an innovative work that transcends conventional understanding of opera, jazz, and metal. Laurent David and William Berger tell us about the upcoming performances.

La Suspendida banner

What does it mean to you that the complete “La Suspendida” will, at last, be performed in New York City?

Laurent David: As you mentioned, we can finally perform the entire opera with a full orchestra! This primarily signifies that we have achieved our initial goal: presenting the music on stage, and during a release album performance at my favorite club in New York, Nublu. However, this isn’t the end of something; rather, it marks the beginning of a new process: sharing our musical perspective on this story, written by William Berger, with the world.

La Suspendida performers

What can audiences expect at this performance? 

LD: The audience will be immersed in the world we’ve created and will lose the sense of time and weather. They’ll also experience an allegory that questions our relationship with death, especially with our loved ones. More abstractly, this concert is akin to being inside a black hole. We accompany María Elena’s journey until her second death.

William Berger: For me, every good opera is about transformation in some way, either on the personal or cosmic level: how does infatuation become true love—e.g., La bohème; or how does the dehumanizing pressure of modern life morph into criminal madness—e.g., Wozzeck; or even how does one universal order give way to the next universal order, e.g., Der Ring des Nibelungen. In fact, we had those and other models in mind when we set out to work on this; there’s a reason why the first track on the album is called “Death and Transfiguration” (cf. Richard Strauss’ “tonepoem”). I hope the audience will take some version of transformation away with them, even if it’s along the lines of “hmmm, I never thought about death—or love, or sex, or acceptance, or whatever—quite that way before.” Or, better yet, “I may have thought about all those things before, but I’ve never felt the experience quite that way before.”

Laurent David and William Berger at Knitting Factory

What’s next for “La Suspendida”

LD & WB: There is an album coming out, and part of this work exists as “vinyl theater,” and we are excited about people experiencing this score as a discrete product, a “thing-in-itself.” But our vision is and always has been for a truly theatrical experience. Currently, we have prepared a concert version with a minimal staging approach, featuring 14 artists on stage. However, our goal is to produce the opera version, complete with dancers, costumes, and the full choir, which includes 15 growlers. We all had a remarkably similar visual impression of the physical dimension of the words and music as we created them – we “felt” the layout of the characters and the lighting and so forth as we wrote it. So, this, like any opera – jazz, metal, Romantic, or what-have-you – is on a one-way ride to full actualization in the theater!

All photos are courtesy of William Berger and Laurent David
Top: William Berger and Laurent David in Paris

Tickets to La Suspendida – March 12 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Nublu, 151 Avenue C, NYC

La Suspendida Linktree

Interview with William Berger on Woman Around Town

About Maria-Cristina Necula (182 Articles)
Maria-Cristina Necula’s published work includes the books "The Don Carlos Enigma: Variations of Historical Fictions" and "Life in Opera: Truth, Tempo and Soul," two translations: "Europe à la carte" and Molière’s "The School for Wives," and the collection of poems "Evanescent." Her articles and interviews have been featured in "Classical Singer" Magazine, "Opera America," "Das Opernglas," "Studies in European Cinema," and "Opera News." As a classically trained singer she has performed in the New York City area at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Florence Gould Hall, and the Westchester Broadway Theatre, and has presented on opera at The Graduate Center, Baruch, The City College of New York, and UCLA Southland. She speaks six languages, two of which she honed at the Sorbonne University in Paris and the University of Vienna, and she holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The Graduate Center, CUNY. In 2022, Maria-Cristina was awarded a New York Press Club Award in the Critical Arts Review category for her review of Matthew Aucoin's "Eurydice" at the Metropolitan Opera, published on Woman Around Town. She is a 2022-24 Fellow of The Writers' Institute at The Graduate Center.