Luke Blackall: Let's hear it for Damon's unsafe bets

Man About Town: Albarn and Norris's opera is a revelation, and a refreshing change from the norm
  • @lukeblackall

Sometimes it all just feels the same. It's all sequels and remakes, be it premieres, launches or openings. Even the "new" generally fits in with the rituals, rhythms and rules of the arts and social calendars.

Some find comfort in this annual merry-go-round: it's safe, you know where you are, and know where you should be. The media, on the other hand, have to try to sell it to you differently each time.

That's not to say that there is no fun to be had. I was lucky enough to go to such annual events this week as Wimbledon and the English National Ballet summer party. And although I am a bit sad I'm not going to be seeing the excitement of the rowing at Henley this year, I won't miss the chaps who try to distract you from their limited conversation with brightly coloured jackets (I should know, I've been one).

One event really did stand out this week, however – the opening night of Damon Albarn, right, and Rufus Norris's new opera Dr Dee. I am a fan of both opera and pretty much everything else Albarn's done, but I was still expecting it to be disappointing.

Thankfully, I was proved wrong. It was a revelation, and a refreshing change from the norm, with a brilliant and imaginative staging that was accessible for the non-opera members of the audience.

It was impressive on other levels too. Its opening comes at a time when people are far less keen to be investing in things that aren't "safe bets". And speaking of "safe bets" it's fair to say Albarn could be earning far more money (an amount most people could retire on) by touring with Blur this summer.

Dr Dee shows that while he is dismissed by some, he remains one of the foremost contemporary pop composers out there, in large part due to the fact that you don't know what he'll produce with each different project. Albarn had a minder with him at the after party, which suggests that he's not spent much time with opera audiences.

However, after this success he may have to. Then again, he's just as likely to go off and do something completely new next year.