Wikipedia-inspired opera containing graphic sexual description to make London debut

Hear an extract of 'Light from Life' below

Matilda Battersby
Thursday 01 November 2012 19:13 GMT
Composer Toni Castell
Composer Toni Castell

A controversial new opera featuring graphic descriptions of sex will make its debut in two weeks’ time at a London church venue.

Spanish composer Toni Castells' new piece, Light from Life, is a vivid form of sex education taking its verse word for word from Wikipedia’s descriptions of sexual intercourse and family planning.

It will be performed at the Union Chapel in Islington on 15 November.

A soaring aria contains the following line: “The erect penis of the male is inserted into the female's vagina until the male ejaculates semen which contains sperm, into the female's vagina."

Castells has risked the wrath of more conservative opera-goers with his unusual piece, billed on the Union Chapel’s website as “an exploration of what it means to be human on planet Earth” and of “the miracle of life and the extraordinarily beautiful process of evolution”.

“Opera has always been a musical art form that has always taken risks,” Castells said, citing Alban Berg’s 1038 Lulu and Thomas Ades’s Powder Her Face (1995) as examples.

He admits he has “clearly ruffled some of the feathers within the very formal opera world”, but he adds: “Opera has always been a genre of provocation and full emotion, an art form that should always take risks, evolve and create controversy.”

The composer, 36, who has been compared to Vangelis and Karl Jenkins, has also been described as “Massive Attack meets Mendelssohn” .

His contemporary arrangements, which he produces with collective Momo live, intertwine electro pop and other commercial genres of music with classical. Performances are set against a backdrop of digital art.

He was classically trained from the age of five playing guitar, piano and clarinet in youth orchestras. Aged 12 he formed a pop/rock band called Korrefok, later known as Herzia, whose 1999 album “Coses que Passen” was very influential in Spain.

Castells said he is in talks with “mainstream theatres” about staging Light from Life again.

“If we can knock down any pre-conceived walls that exist within opera and the general public of the genre being in anyway elitist and the domain of the upper classes, then we will be revolutionising the opera world as well as helping to educate even further the masses when it comes to subjects such as family planning and safe sex,” he said.

Life from Life, 15 November, Union Chapel

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