Asking4It Productions’ double showcase of their works Peacekeeping and The Filmmaker and the Organ Trader was billed as “…two mini operas for a mad age, exploring slavery, the sex trade and human trafficking”. Serious subjects then, meriting an introduction from Assembly member Julie Morgan who talked with justifiable pride about the Assembly’s work to address these issues, at the start of the world premiere of the two works, staged at Ffresh in the Millennium Centre.
This was, I confess, new territory for me. I’ve never previously been to an opera of any kind. My late dad was a classical and opera lover and, either despite or because of that, I was a pop kid, and later a punk fan. As I’ve got older, I’ve warmed to classical music, but I’ve not experienced the kind of opera epiphany other friends of my age have had. Perhaps this production would open a new musical world for me?
I’m sorry to report that, no, this wasn’t for me. I’m sure that this was partly due to my inexperience of opera, but i didn’t find much to enjoy.
Peacekeeping featured four singers, four musicians and a conductor. Three of the singers had solo parts, each depicting characters who were oppressed or responsible for the oppression of women. The music, played on harp, clarinet, cello and percussion, was mostly akin to the soundtrack of a TV psychological thriller (although there was a more melodic passage later in the work, just before the introduction of a preacher character). In truth, the characters seemed too stereotypical for me, and the lyrics too clichéd to say anything especially insightful about the subject.
Perhaps surprisingly I enjoyed The Filmmaker and the Organ Trader even less. This work was both acted and sung, over a droning musical loop as unsettling as the subject. In essence – and I should add a spoiler alert at this point – a young girl arrives and is taken in by a porno filmmaker, a creepy man arrives, rapes the girl, kills her, and then the two men decide to sell her organs to surgeons for money over a meal. Not exactly your standard Saturday night entertainment clearly, but my main problem with it wasn’t about any sense of discomfort over the subject, but the lack of any real message about the issues it depicted. Regrettably, I found it a bit silly and felt glad when it came to an end.
That all said, it was an unfamiliar form for me so it wasn’t the ideal first venture into the world of opera.