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Milli Vanilli’s Lip-Sync Scandal Turned Into Opera

milli vanilli, opera

Milli Vanilli’s oft-mocked but ultimately tragic story will soon become the stuff of opera. DNAinfo reports that the German pop duo’s rise and fall has inspired a new experimental opera that will debut in Brooklyn later this month.

The production, titled WOW, is a collaborative project by musical composer Joe Diebes, poet Christian Hawkey, and professional theater director David Levine, who was originally inspired to create an opera about Milli Vanilli after he saw a 2001 episode of VH1’s Behind the Music that was based on the “Girl You Know It’s True” singers lip-syncers.

“These two guys wanted to be famous, they sell their voices to the devil for fame and fortune, they get fame and fortune, and, when they demand their voices back, they are destroyed,” Levine said, offering a dramatic interpretation of the scandal that ruined Milli Vanilli’s career and resulted in their 1990 Grammy for Best New Artist revocation. “Everyone knows what happened to these guys,” Levine said. “One of them dies of an overdose a couple of years after the scandal hits, so for me it was a classically operatic kind of arc… And it’s a sad one and a real one.”

WOW will feature live music and performers impersonating Milli Vanilli’s Fab Morvan and the late Rob Pilatus, but theater-goers won’t hear renditions of “Blame It on the Rain,” “I’m Gonna Miss You,” or other Milli Vanilli songs. Instead, the music will be a reworked version of Richard Wagner’s classic three-act opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg that will be played onstage.

“The musicians get fed their parts just in time and it’s never the same piece twice,” Levine explained. “They play it as they receive it which leaves it prone to all kinds of glitchy repetition.”

And despite a fast-approaching bow date — WOW will begin its run at Fort Greene’s BRIC House on January 23 — the production is still categorized as a “work-in-progress.” Tickets for the nearly 80-minute opera, which has performances booked through February 1, are currently up for sale through BRIC’s website.