The Big Death

The Adelaide Festival of Arts has just wound up here, and it has been a fun few weeks. As always there was too much stuff I wanted to see. There's just not enough time (or money) to see it all, when you also factor in the Adelaide Fringe festival, along with the general social atmosphere around town, which inevitably leads to going out a few nights a week for drinks with friends. And if you want to go to Womadelaide too? Well there's even less time for the other stuff! Spoiled for choice.

Anyway, in my mind there were two big events at this year's festival I wanted to see. One was Mahler's 8th Symphony. You can read about it on Wikipedia, I won't go into the details. Suffice to say, it's nicknamed the Symphony of a Thousand and requires an impressive number of musicians to play, so I definitely wanted to see it just for that spectacle. And it was certainly a spectacle. Not mind-blowing, but I'm glad I went.

The second thing I wanted to see what the production of Ligeti's only opera Le Grand Macabre, which was being promoted as the "centrepiece" of the Festival, the big production. So I wanted to see it. Not because I'm a fan of the music. I'd never heard it before, and the people I know who have knowledge about such things said it's a difficult bit of music for a novice. But this particular production looked really promising from a production design point of view.

The centrepiece of the set is obviously the enormous figure that took up the entire stage. The performers walked upon her, climber into her, deconstructed her (exposing bodily organs) and emerged from her. She is rotated, lit up, and projected upon. The projections were really impressive. At one point she rotated whilst the projection exposed her skeleton and it was pretty seamless. It definitely gave the illusion of her skin becoming transparent, rather than it being projected on top of her. It certainly make the popular Northern Lights light installation look a bit drab.

The opera itself was entertaining. It dragged in parts, but I find every opera I've been to does. As well as (almost) every musical. Sometimes a feeling doesn't need a song to go with it, you know? But the performances were lively, the story was fun and in the end it was the most impressive production i've seen out of the last two festivals. It's about mortality, death, sex, bodily fluids, apocalypse, hypocrisy, fate, all that good stuff. It builds an epic story on these grand concepts, and then laughs at the pretension of it all. It's an opera that is mocking every other opera, in a way. The moral is basically that we're all going to die, but don't dwell too much on it all, make sure you have a good time while you're alive. A fitting sentiment for the festival season.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • Google Buzz