Opera for a new generation

Daisy EvansTue 15th January 2013
Opera for a new generationSilent Opera, which presents opera for a digital generation, presents Monteverdi's L'Orfeo from January 23 to February 10

Silent Opera is expanding, lending its innovative spin to Monteverdi's L'Orfeo

Daisy Evans was the first recipient of the Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund, which enabled her to develop her creation and company, Silent Opera. She is now directing L’Orfeo for Silent Opera, opening January 23.

When I listen to my iPod on the train in the morning, I close my eyes and give in to the music. For a moment I forget where I am and the music conjures up images and feelings that feel a million miles away from the monotonous morning commute.

I found my own, personal way to appreciate great classical works, and I soon found the intimacy of listening through headphones could not be achieved when sitting in a public auditorium with quiet etiquette, acutely aware of the immediate strangers around me. I wanted to enthuse a new audience with the love of the music I had felt, and I quickly realised our generation is heavily reliant on headphones and digital technology. A modern concert and opera experience had to be developed harnessing everything modern technology can achieve.

I wanted my audience to be as close to the music as possible and to be thrown headlong on a journey with our characters; run with them, laugh and cry with them and stand with them in their unique environment. But how could I do that with opera without sacrificing the orchestra? It has always been important to me to retain musical integrity, as without it, how can new audiences appreciate the work for its original beauty? I decided to pre-record the orchestra, and offer each individual audience member the opportunity to wander the world of the opera for themselves.

Our first production was Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas for the Old Vic New Voices in a dark tunnel beneath London Bridge in February 2011. Proving itself extremely popular, the concept worked and excited a young audience, the majority of whom had never seen an opera before. So we moved on to record the University of London Symphony Orchestra for our 2012 production of La bohème, this time in the Old Vic Tunnels as part of the Vault Festival. Once again, the production was a success, but I wanted to push the boundaries even further and blur the lines between live and pre-recorded, synthesised and acoustic sound, and really take the audience on a unique journey. I wanted them to have the choice between live and recorded sound, widening the scope and dramatic potential for our narrative.

After being granted the Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund for a large-scale production of Monteverdi’s stunning work, L’Orfeo, the company expanded and the ambition grew. I find myself mid-way through an incredibly exciting rehearsal experience, before we open the gates to hell on January 23.

The production opens the minds of the characters, as this time we have a dynamic and informative soundscape that fills your mind through the headphones, mixing Monteverdi’s music with thought, depth and illusion. Take the headphones off, and you’re in the authentic world of 1607, where harpsichords, organs and theorbos secret themselves throughout the set creating an acoustic surround sound.

Silent Opera’s production of L’Orfeo really focuses on the famous choice that Orfeo is forced to make – does he give into his mortal side, to doubt and questioning, or will he stride out of hell the god he is? And this is where Silent Opera's L’Orfeo offers the audience the ultimate choice – save him, or damn him? One audience member per night has Plutone’s Golden Ticket, giving them the choice at the crucial moment – should Orfeo be torn to shreds by the angry Bacchae, as the Ovid story dictates, or should he ascend into heaven with his father Apollo as in the original Monteverdi? We have both endings ready to go, it is up to the individual to decide.

With the new translation I have written myself, we hope this production will move you and hold you like no other production is able to. With several inlays into the opera, you will hear thoughts, heartbeats and harp strings drawing you into the narrative in a unique, innovative way. Silent Opera opens the door into another world of experience and feeling; where our future lies is wherever the crest of technology will take us. Silence is what clings tightly to the skin of the opera, and that is where you will be as you step over the threshold of our world.

Silent Opera: L’Orfeo runs from January 23 to February 10 at 7.30pm (5pm Sundays), Trinity Buoy Wharf (E14). Tickets are £25; £20 for Ideas Tap Members; £35 on January 23 and 25 (includes a boat from Festival Pier).

Daisy Evans

Daisy Evans was the first recipient of the Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund, which enabled her to develop her creation and company, Silent Opera. She is now directing L’Orfeo for Silent Opera, opening on January 23. As an assistant director she has worked at Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House and ENO with directors including David McVicar, Rufus Norris, Richard Jones and Calixto Beitio.

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