Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Rough for Opera #13, Cockpit Theatre

Rough for Opera: three operatic extracts in an early state of development. As ever.

The Death of Kodak is presented in blackout so that creator Ed Baxter could flash a graphic score image in the faces of members of the Resonance Radio Orchestra - the retina-branding image forms the basis for the improvised sound world that follows. There was a huge palette of sound from this sophisticated ensemble which ravished the ear in the manner of mature Portishead and with organic instrumental stylings that recalled early 1970s Miles Davis or the great psychic canvases of Pink Floyd.

On top of this Richard Scott and Rodney Clarke recited a distended libretto of information within a 'downstage' space defined by hi-vis ropes. The drama came from the assumption of the information by the singers who declaimed with poise and portence.

Returns had the same priority, giving a concert performance of James Cave's score. As one of the performers pointed out, the music offered overwhelming dramatic impetus, so the augur for a staging in due course is good. Again the text was indistinct but the emotional freight of the work was, by virtue of the performance of both instrumental ensemble and singers, undeniably strong.

After the break, Acceptance Speech was an opposite sort of experience from the first half. Helen Noir's observation-conflagration of the cute, comic and bathetic vignettes that one is familiar with from awards ceremonies was very entertaining. A multimedia, multidisciplinary theatre piece, the ambition of the work may have overloaded the performers (operating lighting and sound whilst in character) but again promises much for an expanded version. It was good to see the unique, confident La John Joseph again (in rather different circumstances).

Q&As were handled by Prof. Paul Barker. The evening was introduced by Second Movement's Nicholas Chalmers. It's worth noting that for all that Rough for Opera is a testing ground for ideas it can also be, as it was last night, entertaining and rather fulfilling.

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