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realtime 30

April-May 1999


Nigel Kellaway, Annette Tesoriero, Jai McHenry, The opera Project, Tristan, The Performance, photo Heidrun Löhr

The opera Project’s Tristan premieres at The Performance Space

It’s all stops out for the already outrageous opera Project (small ‘o’ opera, but big ‘P’ agenda) in their latest work, Tristan. Over-excited at the very idea of the feminised, wounded hero in 19th century opera (a landscape otherwise packed with bloodied heroines), the Project has gone at the example par excellence, Tristan in Wagner’s marvel of music and misery (read ‘love’) Tristan and Isolde.

More than a man in love, Tristan is positively suicidal, tearing the bandage from a potentially fatal wound by way of greeting his beloved. But the Project doesn’t ‘do’ the opera, it works through and around it, drags in related tunes and images from all over the culture shop. There’s not a few who think that T&I kickstarts the 20th century, not only with ‘that’ chord, but with chronic individualism and fatalism to boot, no respect for time, or much else.

In this Tristan, the hero (Nigel Kellaway), barge-bound, adrift in limbo, doped and delirious, and not as dead as he’d like to be, floats into a song recital delivered by a majestic no-bullshit-please soprano (Annette Tesoriero) whom he mistakes for Isolde. She’s got her own agenda, transcendence through song, not romance, please, next chakra up. Keeping things in a demented kind of perspective is Tristan’s minder (Jai McHenry), a doctor of philosophy, medicine and everything else, with the deathwish of Schopenhauer, the murderous inclination of Dr Miracle, the demeanour of Dr Caligari and the optimism of Spengler. Then there’s an apparition (Xu Fengsham)–is he/she the real (dead) Isolde? It’s a fun team, and an eerie, dangerous one.

If you suspect music theatre is not for you, think again. You don’t have to know the’ll get the drift. If you’ve seen the opera Project at work in Choux Choux Baguette, This Most Wicked Body, The Berlioz: Our Vampires Ourselves and The Terror of Tosca, you’ll know you’re in for a sensual, visceral, hilarious and deliciously black night out. You get great singing close up like you’ve never experienced plus grand piano that will enter and stay with you. The opera Project offers a glorious synthesis of opera and contemporary performance. Offer yourself up to some of the most provocative and entertaining theatre around.

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