Opera Goes Multimedia, As Sunken Garden Premieres At The Barbican

Here at Londonist we have never subscribed to the view that opera is a stuffy, outdated art form. If anyone still required convincing, however, the proof is surely to be found at the Barbican from 12 April when Michel van der Aa’s new film opera, Sunken Garden, enjoys its world premiere.

The plot is about as far removed from the typical story of a crusty old man trying to stand in the way of young love as is imaginable. Described by its composer as ‘an occult-mystery film opera’, it tells of the sudden disappearance of individuals who find themselves in a limbo between life and death, a walled garden where guilt and grief cannot enter (if you want just a glimpse of what to expect check out this video).

Just as importantly, this will be one of the first operas to make use of 3D film, with the multimedia extravaganza mixing live voices on stage with recorded sounds and images. With a libretto from Cloud Atlas novelist, David Mitchell, and performances from leading baritone Roderick Williams and Katherine Manley, who starred in Opera North’s Carousel last year, the Barbican from 12 April is surely the place to be.

The production represents a collaboration with English National Opera, the rest of whose season at the London Coliseum promises to be no less thrilling. It begins with Puccini’s classic La bohème  (from 29 April), and then passes through serialism (Alban Berg’s Wozzeck from 11 May) and minimalism (Philip Glass’ The Perfect American from 1 June) to culminate with Death in Venice (from 14 June), ENO’s own tribute to British composer Benjamin Britten who celebrates his centenary this year.

Sunken Garden runs at the Barbican Theatre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS from 12-20 April, with a start time of 7.30pm. For tickets (£16-50) click here. The rest of English National Opera’s summer season runs at the London Coliseum, Saint Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, WC2N 4ES between 29 April and 28 June. For further details and tickets click here.

Photo: One thing’s for certain. Sunken Garden is most definitely not your average opera, © Joost Rietdijk.

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