Ligeti Le Grand Macabre, English National Opera, London Coliseum, London
Friday 18 September 2009
Meet Claudia – a woman on the edge. The end of the world is nigh. So much junk food, so little time.
For Le Big Mac read Le Grand Macabre. Claudia is about to have a particularly alarming out-of-body experience. A whole lot of woman is about to get a whole lot more. Put it this way: if Claudia were able to stand up her head would go through the roof of the London Coliseum.
So begins this extraordinary staging – by Alex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco of the Catalan “total theatre” company La Fura dels Baus – of György Ligeti’s only opera. Claudia is designer Alfons Flores’ creation and she fills the Coliseum stage revolving through 360 degrees to reveal every unflattering aspect of her physiognomy. They say no man is an island, but this woman is. Or to be more precise, she is Breughelland, a paranoid and morally corrupt police state run by a sexually indeterminate Prince sporting a very high voice and lurex tunic (the excellent Andrew Watts). And when a mysterious visitor Nekrotzar (Pavlo Hunka) arrives to announce that the game will be up at precisely midnight, Claudia’s body becomes a repository for the entire world’s fear and loathing.
Allé and Carrasco’s production literally spills from her every orifice. At one point the black and white ministers (or should that be minstrels) of Breughelland (Daniel Norman and Simon Butteriss) emerge, appropriately enough, from her rear end to engage in a slanging match of A-Z obscenities. Claudia’s bowels (groaning under the weight of all that bingeing) are massaged by black-gloved hands before the Chief of Secret Police, Gepopo (the manic coloratura soprano of Susanna Andersson) explodes from within smelling subversion and foul play. Or is that simply smelling foul. Claudia’s worst nightmare, and ours, is an Hieronymous Bosch-like landscape of degradation and delight on which startling video projections (Franc Aleu) cast images of hellfire and decay. Claudia’s fleshly form dissolves into a skeleton before our eyes. Amazing.
But what’s it all for? On what level can we now engage with La Grand Macabre? Back in the 1980s it was an audacious and exceedingly smelly fart in the general direction of Opera. “Anti-Anti Opera”, Ligeti called it, and so it is – vocal conventions grotesquely distorted against an all snorting, all growling orchestra (brilliant under Baldur Bronnimann). Where else will you find a Monteverdian cacophony of motor horns?
But I’ve a sneaky feeling it was a one-time-only conceit, a cartoon stamped with a very short sell-by date. When the real Claudia finally makes it to the loo at the close she’s flushing away more than just her dinner. Toilet humour? That’s about the size of it.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'