CLASSICAL MUSIC / Upbeat: Rats' tales

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The Independent Culture
Hot on the news that Damien Hirst, carver-up of dead cows and pickler of sheep, is to stop playing the artist and start directing TV commercials ('I don't think there's a big difference between what I've been doing and this,' the great self-publicist observes with endearing honesty) comes the announcement that he is now designing the sets for a new opera.

Set to a text by his fellow artist Daniel (son of Rodrigo) Moynihan, and scored by the performing duo of Mark Springer and Sarah Sarhandi, Agongo isn't due to open at the Union Chapel in Islington until next May. But to keep appetites whetted, Hirst has come up with his first commercial in the form of an installation to be shown at the Demarco European Art Foundation in Edinburgh during this year's International Festival.

Accompanied by a tape loop of the overture and finale to the opera, the 12-minute trailer consists of a cage of rats suspended above a miniature tropical jungle, illuminated by four neon pharmaceutical signs.

Given that the Union Chapel's most recent theatrical venture, the rock musical Bad Boy Johnny and the Prophets of Doom, was banned after the religious outcry against its salacious depiction of acts of unholy communion between a nun and the Pope, it remains to be seen how the Chapel's regular clientele will take to Agongo's rat-infested portrayal of an Idi Amin-like dictator in the manner of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi.