Contemporary and innovative opera 'The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs' comes to Atlanta

john moore steve jobs atlanta opera
John Moore portrays Steve Jobs in the opera "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs." (Erich Schlegal)

Steve Jobs revolutionized how we think about the world and how we acquire information, communicate and access music. This story of his life and how he viewed his mortality are at the essence of the opera by composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell. “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” a new production by Tomer Zvulun and The Atlanta Opera, opens on April 30 and continues through May 8. Campbell joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about this award-winning opera. 

Interview highlights:

How the reluctant librettist was won over:

“It was the composer Mason Bates’ idea to write an opera about Steve Jobs. Originally he called me and said, ‘I want to work on an opera with you,’ and he neglected to tell me the subject matter. And I said yes because I wanted to work with Mason. He’s an incredible composer, a real driving force in electronic music, especially,” said Campbell. “And then he told me the subject, and I [said], ‘Oh, no, not Steve Jobs.’”

He went on, “My original impression of him, which was somewhat incorrect, was that he was just an impossible person who mistreated his employees … I also thought it was going to be an impossible task — and I actually still think it’s an impossible task — to write an opera about someone who is so familiar to everybody … However, as I started reading about the man, I discovered ways that I could humanize him and create the story that Mason saw initially with this man. He’s an important figure, and his work will be with us for a very long time.”

The life story of Steve Jobs in song:

“We begin when Steve jobs is 10 years old, and his father gives him a work table and says, ‘You can take things apart, and you can make things,’” said Campbell. “Most of the story takes place in 2007 when Steve Jobs was diagnosed with cancer and started facing his own mortality.”

“That idea of looking at your own mortality is what gets this story going, and he basically takes a circular path, looking at the memories in his life and all of the major events in his life that formed him — including his work with Steve Wozniak, his marrying and impregnating a woman, and then denying that the child was his, but then, more importantly, his meeting Laurene Powell, which completely altered how he viewed life.”

Dialing in the peculiarities of Jobs’ character:

“The perfectionist side of his character, which is well-documented and sometimes very comic, as you may know — like, he hated, for example, lighting outlets. He thought they were ugly. The rest of us just view them as utilitarian, and he had to have them hidden behind walls,” Campbell said. “I understand that, in a way, for anyone who attempts to be precise with language. I mean, I’m not putting myself on the same level as Steve Jobs, but I keyed into that aspect of his character.”

“It was interesting about Steve Jobs and that he could be so cold, even sadistic at times. I think that part of that came from his ego taking over after becoming such a corporate success,” Campbell said. ”And one thing that I love about John Moore, who plays our Steve Jobs here, is that he can turn on the coldness and the meanness and the really dark side of Steve Jobs on a dime. He sings like an angel, and he moves like a dancer, but he can really play that aspect of Steve Jobs, and the aspect that can just cut down a human being with two words.”

“The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” is performed at the Atlanta Opera April 30 – May 8. Tickets and more information are available at