Kermit the Frog joins the chorus – in 'Caligula'

New opera dresses characters as kids' favourites to portray citizens living in terror

It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights – Kermit the Frog is in appearing in a tale of dictatorship, violence and sexual depravity.

Audiences will see the children's character, along with hero He-Man and clown Ronald McDonald, in a much darker way later this month when new versions take to the stage for English National Opera's UK premiere of the German composer Detlev Glanert's opera Caligula. Members of the chorus will wear costumes reminiscent of the famous figures of fun to represent a society living in terror. Other costumes will include those inspired by Miss World-style beauty-pageant contestants, show girls, a doughnut and a turkey. Costume designer Alice Babidge said that while people might associate the characters with "colour and movement and fun, light fluffy things", there were things that were "sad and different and frightening" about her surreal interpretations.

Based on Albert Camus' play of the same name, which he wrote as a response to Hitler and Stalin, Glanert's 2006 opera examines the rise of the modern dictator. Both versions chart the rule of the tyrannical and decadent Roman emperor Caligula, whose life, following the death of his sister and lover, Drusilla, loses meaning. He pursues a destructive path of cruelty, murder and depravity.

The ENO's production is the latest from the imaginative and acclaimed Australian director Benedict Andrews, who last month directed Hollywood star Cate Blanchett in Sydney Theatre Company's staging of Big and Small (Gross und Klein) at the Barbican.

The opera's 40-strong chorus represents Caligula's people. Andrews said their unusual costumes – which provide a contrast in Act II to the fine suits, fur and diamonds that characterise a wealthy society in the first act – are used "to portray the abused citizens of a totalitarian state". "They are examples of a populace living in terror, perhaps forced to dress up by Caligula. A senator says, 'It is all a dream. He will change all of his nightmares into corpses.' These unusual costumes help form a portrait of this nightmare society... a society whose ruler Caligula has gone insane."

Andrews, who last year directed the ENO's powerful production of The Return of Ulysses at the Young Vic, has set Caligula in a football stadium in a nameless, fictional state run by a military dictatorship. "The staging concept comes from studying images of ancient Roman stadiums, and of contemporary sports fields," he said. "I was struck how these places have been co-opted by the forces of state terror, ie the National Stadium in Chile under Pinochet... The stadium becomes filled with people, sometimes they seem to be real, at other times creatures from Caligula's imagination."

Artistic director John Berry said that Andrews, "one of the hottest directors" in theatre, not only had an "amazing visual sense" but was also a wonderful director of performers. He added that Caligula's score did not put any barriers in front of an audience new to contemporary opera. "It feels very modern but it also has a romantic air to it," he said. "It's emotional, it's atmospheric. It varies from absolutely explosive music that is highly technical to music that is incredibly simple."

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living