[kj] KJ Theatre
gasw30 at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 27 09:37:05 EDT 2004
More press, this time an article by an opera director. Brief reference near
the beginning to KJ music used on stage. Any info anyone?
>>>>Copyright 2004 Guardian Newspapers Limited
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition
HEADLINE: Saturday Review: Arts edited by Michael Nyman: Street sounds:
Opera is elitist and boring, says Jonathan Moore. And it's time directors
did something about it
'Would you like to direct an opera?" It was probably the most unexpected and
bizarre question I had ever been asked. The person asking it was Hans Werner
Henze, one of our most prolific contemporary composers. Opera a speciality.
I was in my mid-20s and had seen only one opera, Il Trovatore . I was on a
school trip and I loathed it. The closest I had come to music theatre since
then was directing plays with new music by Killing Joke or Test Dept, the
industrial group who smashed out percussive rhythms using wrecked cars and
machinery. My musicians were more likely to ask "How long do you want the
white noise?" than "Do you want this in E flat?"
And here was Hans Werner Henze, plying me with vodka and asking me if I
would like to direct an opera. I declined. He asked why. With the absolute
tact of a drunk twentysomething, I replied: "Because it's boring, bourgeois,
elitist, establishment, exclusive and has nothing to say to the man on the
Henze smiled. "My dear, I agree with you. That's why people like you should
be directing opera."
He introduced me to Mark-Anthony Turnage, a young composer who shared my
love of George Clinton, Test Dept, Miles Davis and Bootsy Collins. He didn't
want to work in opera either. "But when Henze asks," he said, "you gotta do
it." That's how we came to create Greek , an opera updating the Oedipus
legend to contemporary London. We hoped it would cause an uproar, a
first-night punch-up like that inspired by Stravinsky's Rite of Spring .
Instead, we got a standing ovation for 12 minutes. I was hooked. I had
discovered an amazing art form - a powerful synthesis of music, acting,
poetry, design and dance - and I wanted everyone to share it.
Friends in theatre couldn't understand why I had been lured by the siren
song of this exotic - and elitist - medium. But I had realised that opera
was, like beer, curry or football, an acquired taste. A football virgin
watching second-division teams play a goalless draw in the rain wouldn't
grasp the potential for sheer genius at a top-level European match. However,
if what they saw was good, they might start to get interested and go again.
Opera is the football of the ruling class. The ruling classes like to think
of it as their game. And it occurred to me that asking Mark and me - both
from working-class families - to work on an opera was Henze's way of
conducting a political experiment in social anthropology. People like me, he
had said, should be directing opera.
I had become convinced of the importance of reaching a wider audience with
opera. The challenge was to clarify and share this mad, exquisite art form.
To reach people without oversimplifying; to employ complex semiology to
express the profound philosophical truths of our time, but in a way that
could inspire everyone. No pressure there then.
The ruling classes, however, enjoy the elitism of opera. As a result, the
opera world is full of age-old rituals and little rules. I was breaking
those rules constantly, without even realising it. One company warned me not
to fight the system. My revolutionary act? I had asked if I could audition
more than one singer for a leading role.
Yet singers can be directed in the same way as actors. Indeed, the best
singers are sometimes the best actors. But there are also a lot of singers
who just want to "stand and deliver". For them, the beauty of the voice is
all and to hell with the staging. It's a director's duty to demolish this
If a singer is to enter the stage masturbating while swinging from a
chandelier and singing an aria, the director has to find a way to make it
work. Opera has to be dragged into the 21st century with spiritual and
intellectual rigour, with the energy of the streets and even the music of
the streets. The challenge is there - all opera directors ought to accept
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