Hearing Damage: The Rat Opera

Published on March 4th, 2014

Rat Opera“Hearing Damage: The Rat Opera” returns to Cinema Paradiso
Lauded rock opera written by Rob Elba and Brian Franklin returns with a new format, new songs, and local singer-songwriters in the cast.

After a three-year hiatus, the rock opera “Hearing Damage” (aka “The Rat Opera”), based on the life of South Florida producer and “noise rock” pioneer Rat Bastard, returns to the stage on Saturday, February 26th at 8pm and Sunday, February 27th at 5pm. While Rat Bastard is a noise-rock pioneer, the rock opera is far from noise: Previous iterations of the show were lauded by local music critics as “a masterpiece”, “energetic and boisterous,” “insistently melodic,” “decidedly tuneful” and “not unlike The Who’s Tommy performed by the Pixies.”

The new format includes what Elba and Franklin refer to as “a semblance of a plot” and “something close to acting” including “actual written lines.” The show will star some of the most successful and honored singer-songwriters in South Florida music history, including Rene Alvarez performing the starring role as Rat. Songwriters and musicians Carey Peak, Jim Camacho, Ed Artigas, Ali Cullota, Steven Toth, and Diane Ward also have starring roles.

Originally conceived in 1996, the Rat Opera is an homage to (still breathing) producer and avant-garde artist Rat Bastard. Rat has been a fixture in the South Florida music scene for over 30 years – and has produced some of the earliest demos of the area’s best acts. Founder of the yearly International Noise Conference, he’s widely recognized as one of the early pioneers of “noise rock” – a dissonant cacophony of sound he himself described once as “unlistenable.” In the early 1990s, he set his sights on Spin Magazine’s Worst Band in America award – and won. By day, he is Frank Falestra, South Beach condo President and former long time airline employee. By night he is someone altogether different… he is Rat Bastard.

The new version of the Rat Opera further embellishes the story of this already colorful character and his dealings with more traditional musicians, girlfriends, and his hero – Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard, a real-life indie rock legend (played by Peak).

The songs, written by Elba and Franklin, lean closer to the past work of its creators than to Rat’s ethic. Elba is best known for his role in the popular South Florida rock bands The Holy Terrors and Shark Valley Sisters, and Franklin fronted his own band throughout the 90’s and early 2000s and played guitar in the Diane Ward Band, among others. Neither are full time musicians or rock-opera writers: Elba runs the online jewelry company (which incidentally got notoriety for creating the Sex in the City Carrie necklace). Franklin is President of a political consulting firm, Impact Politics, which provides communications strategy and advertising for congressional, statewide, and national candidate and advocacy campaigns.

The core of the show, of course, is the music – which will be performed by the Rat Opera Band, featuring Elba and Franklin as well as Russell Mofsky (Gold Dust Lounge, Quit), Andre Serafini (Quit), and William Trev (The Holy Terrors).

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Tickets can be purchased online at www.fliff.com for $8 or if they don’t sell out, at the door for $10. Cinema Paradiso is located at 503 SE 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale. Phone for Cinema Paradiso is (954) 525-3456