This was my third production by Graham Vick’s Birmingham Opera company who always surprises and is built of the foundation of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and a community chorus that tends to be the vibrating, galvanising factor of the whole experience. On Friday night a bleak warehouse in the industrial area of Birmingham was transformed into an airport arrivals lounge. As with Vick’s BO productions, the name of the game is immersion. The audience and the chorus and all the extras become one, being cleverly manipulated around and in the midst of the action. Their productions take on an experiential character far and beyond what the traditional opera house setting is capable.
A wonderful ancient Greek was circling my head on Friday when I tried to find a way to describe cogently the feeling of being there. Δρώμενον, which translates rather badly into ‘happening’ in Greek having a much more nuanced and deep resonance of lived experience through performance. This is not just a live experience but more like a living experience. One’s senses accentuated in near self-preservation mode, on the lookout for the next abrupt interruption and surge by the chorus or sudden appearance of soloists.
It is a heady mix in which to experience Michael Tippett’s angular and episodic score. The star of the night was Chrystal E. Williams and her obscenely luxurious mezzo and fierce presence. Her night time soliloquy a triumph of intense characterisation and impressive ease around Tippett’s fidgety coloratura. That sometimes can make singers sound laboured and mechanical, she imbued it with raw, bloody passion.
If you have the time watch my 17mins worth of excerpts which should give you an insight on the production and the overall feel, even if no recording will ever transmit the emotional live experience of being there. I will pretend that the silly portrait filming was an intentional aesthetic choice, if asked (no, not really…just sheer stupidity).