Most art-loving readers will know that the exhibitions at the Zabludowicz are pretty cutting-edge, but this March the gallery is instigating something of a first in its 12-year history: an events programme without an exhibition. And yep, as the title clearly says, it’s all about opera – reinvented for 2020, naturally.
Entitled Hot With Excess, this special two-week season of live shows explores what the organisers are calling “the collision of contemporary art and opera”.
So you can expect all manner of real-time performances, screenings and discussions on how today’s artists are commandeering what some consider a hoary 400-year-old tradition to propose “new hybrid forms that resist easy definition”.
But workmanlike this is not. Using the Zabludowicz Collection’s 19th century architecture – it was formerly a Methodist chapel, lest we forget – the idea is that the performances are free from the formality of a traditional opera house. So in short, anything goes.
It’s basically all about pushing boundaries, asking how far we can rethink opera and what its traditionally emotionally intense narratives actually mean. By re-framing its component parts – voice, music, libretto, staging and costumes – the artists and performers are able to examine how the genre itself can be reconfigured. Far from rehashing an inaccessible art form, the aim is to turn its structure inside out.
As some of you will vouch for, once you’re freed from convention, you can do pretty much anything. And so the dozen or so artists here will be embracing opera as the original “impure” form, a parasitic mix of music, dance and theatre. Meanwhile, the audience can bathe in immersive shows that are multi-layered, celebratory even.
Hot with Excess: A Season of Contemporary Artists’ Opera launches its run with a newly commissioned opera by LA-based artist Trulee Hall (see our main pic, above), and then includes the following highlights: a 24-hr film work with live augmentations by Benjamin Orlow; a new site-specific staging by Sam Belinfante; a fully realised operatic performance of Marijke de Roover’s Live, Laugh, Limerence; and screenings from Beatrice Gibson and Alexandre Singh, whose ambitious three-hour, three-act play The Humans, modelled on comedies by Aristophanes, is stuffed with bawdy satire. Oo-er.
It all culminates in an unmissable restaging of Black Rage, the UK-debut of Berlin-based American artist Richard Kennedy.
Chuck in a lively panel discussion, in partnership with Centre for Audio Visual Experimentation (CAVE) and, ultimately, the short run explores not only the personal and political, or the intimate and global, but simply what it means to be human.
After all, opera’s paradoxical nature – a relic that remains vital, a dead form that continues to thrive – makes it an appropriate art form for the difficult world we live in. It asks us to confront our fears and desires, and explore who we are, or might be.
Zabludowicz is at 176 Prince Of Wales Road NW5, open Thurs-Sunday 12-6pm. To buy tickets and for more info head here
Main image: Trulee Hall, Tongues Duel the Corn Whores, an Opera performance, sketch courtesy of the artist
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