Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Dr Dee

On Saturday, I went to see Damon Albarn's new opera, Dr Dee at the ENO.

Not having any idea of who Dr Dee was, I made the near-fatal error of not grabbing a program on the way in, but since the opera was in English, I'd have no problem following it, right?

Wrong! It was a mind-boggling, astonishing and sometimes confusing tale. I followed the beginning fairly easily, but as it went on, I found myself getting lost. When the interval came, I was glad of the chance to quaff some more Veuve Cliquot!

Having said that, I enjoyed it immensely, just as a spectacle and as music, it was a strange and magical experience that I felt like I was "getting" only every now and again.

The set changes were extraordinary, and actually, the production was amazing overall. The visual spectacle was as good as a movie, the singing was beautiful and the strange musical instruments chosen for the music lent the whole piece a strange sense of otherworldliness.

Glancing through the libretto and the ENO's website, it would be easy to dismiss this as a pretentious musician getting ideas above his station, but my humble words can't really do it justice.

It is, at times, baffling - both @clareangela and @almostsenseless have seen it twice and both told me that they "weren't really sure about it", but that somehow it was wonderful. And it was.

Unlike anything else I've ever seen, sometimes feeling more like a musical than an opera, sometimes feeling more like a Salvador Dali movie than a musical, sometimes feeling like a musical version of Pulp Fiction, it was quite extraordinary. It wasn't always "accessible", but somehow it enthralled and immersed you and the challenge to "get it" was worth the effort.

I'm only sorry that I went to the very last showing, so I will have to wait until it comes around again, but when it does, I'll certainly be in the queue pronto!


Simon Cooke said...

Dr Dee - to know more about him, this is a great book:

The Queen's Conjuror: The Science and Magic of Dr.Dee


patently said...

Opera has often been described as "a feast for the eye and the ear, at the expense of the understanding".

Richard said...

John Harle (the saxophonist) also wrote an opera about Dr Dee. It was in the Proms about 15 years ago. Very impressive, although I wouldn't like to listen to it very often.