Who would have thought that talented opera voices, in this case Opera Erratica, a repurposed recording of an English audio course and a socially polite orgy, could work together simultaneously and make an audience chuckle. This comes as the comedic and middle part of the three sections that make up ‘Triptych’ named ‘A Party.’ Its composer Thomas Smetryns attempts to prove how socialisation depends on the language we use and does this with panache. The singers, stroke, performance artists, hold cheeky smiles and mischievous twinkles in their eyes that lead to a silly yet playful performance of throwing clothes in the air, whistling, reversing and slowing down the tempo of voices (which amusingly mimic foreign languages) and conclude with a group synchronised sexual climax from a 1950s LP repeating the verb, ‘to come’ in the background.
‘Triptych’ which is showing at the Print Room, is a fresh contemporary opera that experiments with various mediums including visual art, voice, fashion, performance art, projected images, electronica and video. Gavin Turk, international contemporary artist designed the set as a ‘fake’ art gallery securing physical focal points for the singers which was adaptable for all three parts: a comedy, tragedy and a story about nuns which echo the musical mastery of opera composer, Puccini and his Il trittico. However, besides this distinction, there is no resemblance to the 19thcentury classical opera in any shape or form.
The first part, ‘Reunion’ by Christian Mason is a sacred ceremony that is sung mercifully in the name of God in tandem with an interview with a would-be nun talking to her ex-lover of past and present experiences. All singers of Opera Erratica (Kate Symonds-Joy, Lucy Goddard, Oskar McCarthy, Callie Swarbrick and Catherine Carter) show off their true operatic prowess by letting their voices describe the sorrow and holiness of the convert’s sacrifice. The execution of light humming that build up to a vocally strenuous and highly concentrated harmonisation from all voices give an audience a hefty performance which puts church choirs to shame. This, and interesting backdrops of moving dots which float in parallel to the voices as well as Swarbrick’s zoomed in pretty face develops the visual senses and heightens the intensity of the opera. However, Swarbrick needlessly stands naked with her back to the audience, which is an artistic device that was pointlessly added. ‘Reunion’ is a multi-layered piece of voices which although intriguing only warmed to the audience half way through its performance.
The last piece is Chris Mayo’s ‘The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered’, which goes back to 1972 reliving the mysterious life of Richard Nickels and his fascination of Louis Sullivan architecture. Electronic music creeps in and large projections of moving blue prints of these building glide across the set, however a lot of questions are left unanswered. Singers start a sentence and pass the words to each other to create a cleverly constructed musical collage – and creative collaboration – that make up bits and pieces of Nickel’s character. Yet, still it was hard to appreciate all part of Mayo’s piece but the music.
Opera Erratica’s director Patrick Eakin Young has introduced a stylish mish mash of what hasn’t been done before. Smetryns’s piece is the favourite, which interestingly enough has the least opera, proving that there is still a lot more Opera Erratica can offer. There is potential when there’s an open-minded audience willing to see new opera merged with art, which deconstructs the norm. The insights are endless.
(Production dates: 17 May – 7 June 2014)