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Contemporary opera is a risky endeavor. Traditional opera fans aren’t likely to flock to a polyrhythmic, electric guitar-based song cycle about cognitive psychology. (Which is to say nothing of rock operas, where for every Tommy by the Who there are 10 Operation: Mindcrimes by Queensryche.) Slide, a new composition by Steven Mackey, centers on a psych experiment that tests subjects’—meaning vocalists’—interpretations of blurry slideshow images. Given the difficult subject matter, Mackey and writer Rinde Eckert are fortunate to have the eighth blackbird ensemble as their performers. The Grammy-winning Chicago sextet, a resident ensemble at the University of Maryland this year, is known for eschewing sheet music, and for being unafraid to tackle experimental works involving mixed media—sometimes it takes guts to make music with puppets.

THE PRODUCTION TAKES PLACE AT 8 P.M. (SAME TIME SATURDAY) AT THE CLARICE SMITH PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD AND STADIUM DRIVE, COLLEGE PARK. $37. (301) 405-2787.