Saturday, 25 June 2011

Prime Suspect goes Opera

When talking about opera, most people have in their minds old themed scripts or old themed music. That is, either it's an opera written hundreds of years ago, or new music put into a script that comes also from the past. And let's face it, most of the times it's like that.  And even when it's always nice to revive the old classics or see a new music arrangement to some classic text, it's very refreshing to watch a performance of a new script with original music.

And what can be more contemporary than a script that goes around the classic drama of loneliness, love and lies that have surrounded opera for hundreds of years, embedded inside the on-line world that surround us today.

That is what Two Boys aimed to achieve, with a nice success, in my opinion.  Nico Muhly, and librettist, Craig Lucas delivered yesterday the world premier of Muhly's first opera, at the London Coliseum, home of the British National Opera.

In what can also be described as an episode of Prime Suspect in an opera format the script goes around through the eyes and ears of Anne Strawson (Susan Bickley), the middle age woman detective investigating the case of Brian (Nicky Spence), aged 16, accused of stabbing Jake (Joseph Beesley), aged 13.

 The central theme is the mind games that our digital era has made so easy to fall into.  Something that even when could be thought to be exaggerated, it has a very real background, and happens everywhere in the world, through chat services, social networks, dating sites or even by SMS over the phone.  I myself have witnessed this kind of mind games and know how devastating can they be, and as always reality can be harder and stronger than fiction.  So the theme is real, the theme is vivid and surround us every day. 

Speaking of Lucas' script, it was well managed, trying to give the feeling of the new on-line way of communicating a very informal speech that gives a sense of more realism, with even some funny moments, although a deeper exploration of the characters could have being done, it covers enough to get us immerse in the story.

Rumon Gamba conducted Muhly’s score that goes along giving a nice film-like background to the stage singers. Sometimes it overcomes the soloist singers a little bit, though.

Personally I thought that the music didn't develop as much as I had expected, although one of the great achievements of Muhly's music is when we have the the multi-layered choir in scene, with a very beautiful staging of faces illuminated by open laptops and a multimedia effect with videos projected on the background with a 3D effect of the animations made by projecting different layers; the music goes into an "electronic" feeling, without the use of a single synthesizer, mix or other electronic music device.  The effect is achieved by beautiful polyphonies with aleatory and over lapping sounds and words and flashing images giving the real sense of a very modern and "electronic" multimedia staging.

The internet is the framework over which the opera is played, how ever, the emotions are the common suspects of any good drama.  A dramatic contemporary staging of the alienated world we live, and the ever lasting human desire of not leaving this world without love, without people remembering our qualities, a desire not to go "unsung", as the script puts it, when we leave for good. 

Overall is a good work, perhaps not remarcable as a very trascendent one, but certainly a very refreshing and innovative way of doing opera, to get it close to our reality and keep it interesting. It's worth an evening out.

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