A passionate kind of crazy

Yesterday I was interviewed on Winnipeg’s CKUW 95.9 for their weekly New Music broadcast, GroundSwell Radio. I talked to Rob Sauvey, Executive Director of GroundSwell, Winnipeg’s New Music concert series, about the three new operas I’ll be performing at Cluster Festival. I spoke about ideas for contemporising performance, my work with Pazzia Collective, and what it is to be pazzo. You can hear the full podcast of the programme at this link.

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Bringing the snake pit to the opera

I’m in Canada, about to begin rehearsals for the first chamber opera by Matthew Ricketts, No Masque for Good Measure. The opera has been commissioned by Cluster New Music and Integrated Arts Festival, where I’m a Resident Artist this year. At around an hour of continuous music, this is the most substantial of my three festival appearances, and there’s a lot of production liaison as I’m devising and directing the staged components as well as conducting. We’ll be performing it in the Eckhardt Hall of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which I viewed today with my production team.

The opera is written to a text by Lauren Rogener, a writer and scholar based in New York. It’s a story of three drag queens and their costumier, a typically complex opera plot with a love triangle at its centre. Consistent with drag culture, the names and genders of the three queens are continually interchanged. A large part of the opera finds them in rehearsal for a drag show, so to add to the confusion, they often play characters within their characters, and jump between those characters in turn. The show they’re rehearsing is a masque, built on a sequence of Shakespeare’s dirty double entendres. Classic drag banter is fed through the weird and wonderful filter of historical language, the strangeness of the masque made even more so by the characters unravelling within it. Stranger yet, the opera ends before the masque and its accompanying scandal are even performed.

The costumier, or as he’s called in the score, Wardrobe Mist(e)r/ess, is a character with supernatural and sinister qualities. He appears in different forms and at different levels of consciousness to serve his own agenda. He’s the most developed and powerful of the four characters, and his manipulation brings the downfall of his lover, one of the queens. In my interpretation, the most important of the costumier’s guises is as a serpent in the central dream scene of Act 2. My research has led me to footage of the Narcisse Snake Pit in the nearby town of Narcisse, Manitoba. Beyond being a genuinely disturbing visual phenomenon, I’m particularly taken with the link to Narcissus, and the idea of self-reflection in a writhing snake mass. This scene is the turning point of the opera, when the seed for revenge is planted. I’m definitely planning to incorporate the Narcisse pits into my staging.

Over the next two weeks, these four colourful characters who have filled my mind for months will come alive for the first time. I’ll be posting rehearsal clips and production images as we get closer to our performance on 9 March. Ticketing info is available at the festival website.

On the loose, and mobilising

I’ve been featured in an article on Australian musicians overseas by the Journal of the Music Council of Australia, Music Forum. They’ve written a very favourable piece about me and my orchestra, heading it up with the great title “Ruthless Jabiru Loose in London”. You can link to the article from this post.

Clustered at the core

In a few weeks time I’m heading to Winnipeg in central Canada, where I’ll be an Artist in Residence at Cluster: New Music and Integrated Arts Festival next month. For my residency, I’ll be devising, directing and conducting three chamber operas by emerging Canadian composers, two of which are world premieres. I’ll be staging the operas in the style of my company, Pazzia Collective, which brings together conducted chamber ensemble and Live Art, or as it’s called in Canada, Performance Art.

I’ll be opening the festival this year with scenes from Ophiuchus Rising, a new chamber opera by Luke Nickel exploring Pop Culture response to the purported shift in the zodiac, brought about by inclusion of the 13th sign, Ophiuchus.

The second night will see a fully-staged realisation of No Masque for Good Measure, a new chamber opera by Matthew Ricketts to a libretto by Shakespeare aficionado, Lauren J. Rogener. The work muses on confusions of gender through the colour of the drag medium, and within the frame of a classically doomed love triangle.

The festival finale, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, is a conceptual piece derived from a recently composed chamber opera by Heidi Ouellette. The musicians of the 2012 festival will come together en masse in a Gothic rendering of alphabetised demise, in conjunction with a team of local performance artists. “A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs..”

Ticketing info for Cluster is now live on the festival website. I’m so honoured to have been offered the opportunity to develop these three great scores, and can’t wait to see the lives they’ll live over the course of the next month.

Bite the bullet and blog

I’ve decided to start a blog here on my website to keep everyone up to date with my professional engagements. I’ll continue to tweet about my daily inspirations but I’m looking forward to having enough characters remaining to put all the details of my work in one place. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my adventures in and around music in London and abroad.

A recent photo from my performance at Australia House, London, for the Tait Memorial Trust.