I am really intrigued by how Amplified Opera’s shows this week at the Museum of Contemporary Art are going to work and so I spoke to both Marion Newman and Topher Mokrzewski about them and what the audience might expect. Despite several hours on the phone I’m still not sure I know and that’s probably a good thing. It’s pretty fluid and experimental and I don’t think we’ll know exactly what we are getting until we get it. I do know that we can expect music and talk and discussion with the audience around the themes being explored in each half of the double header.
WRECKONCILIATION will look at the fraught relationship between Indigenous performers and Western classical music. It is, after all, their music as much as anybody’s. It’s the music they were brought up on but it’s also problematic. Frequently it’s deeply imbued with colonial, imperial and racist tropes. How do Indigenous artists stake a claim to it? What’s the next step in reclaiming music that’s been used to assimilate, appropriate and incorporate people who have had much of their unique culture erased? And where does Henry Purcell figure in all that?
MisogyME looks at “toxic masculinity” and the role it plays in opera and musical theatre (and the role they play in reinforcing it?). Again it’s going to be interactive but built around classical stereotypes of “bad dudes”; Mozart’s men at their (considerable) worst, Sweeney Todd and much more. There’ll be some humour but it’s a serious topic and it isn’t going to be taken lightly.
Both segments of the show are “staged” within Jeffrey Gibson’s installation I AM YOUR RELATIVE which is a reconfigurable space so there are interesting possibilities for organising (or not) the performer/audience interaction.
This is pretty high risk theatre. The performers are inviting the audience into an exploration of potentially toxic subjects and who knows where that might lead.? It may be that the script won’t truly be written until the show is done (and maybe not even then). I do think though that this is a much needed experiment. We need conversations about how our art form can evolve to deal with long standing problems and that won’t happen until the dialogue is opened up like this.
These two shows form a double bill at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday March 17th. On the 19th MisogyME and on the 20th WRECKONCILIATION will each reappear paired with a third show SPOTLIGHT looking at issues affecting people with disabilities in the opera world. More details at Amplified.