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Roni Ilan & James Wreford
Sivan Eldar, Cordelia Lynn
A new chamber opera in one act.
Music by Sivan Eldar
Text by Cordelia Lynn
I dreamt the world cracked open like an egg,
said one lover to the other,
and you came spilling out /
said the other, interrupting.
No, said the dreamer,
'Now I am ready to tell how bodies are changed into different bodies...' - Ovid
Two lovers, loving.
Each so bound up in the other that the world fades from view. They are one person, one thought, one touch, one song, until a hidden history of violence reveals itself, engendering a profound transformation.
Flesh hardens to bark, fingers shatter into leaves and feet grow roots, digging deep into the earth. As the form of one body changes, so must the shape of love, but can it, and should it, survive?
Inspired by tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Like flesh is a story of passion, shifting identities, and our relationship with the natural world.
THEMES & POLITICS
Like flesh was born out of an ambition to tell stories of love and desire in the opera form which confound the male/female binary, and the gendered expectations that come with it. Ovid’s Metamorphoses are tales of passion in extremis, passion so great that the human possessed by it bursts into another form, transcending from the natural into the supernatural. At the heart of many of these myths is a violence in passion, from male to female, and the metamorphosis offers an escape from lust and a climactic but tragic preservation of chastity. But what might these stories offer us if they don’t end on their expected climax?
In Like flesh, the metamorphosis is only the beginning, acting as a rich and ambiguous metaphor, for the body of a survivor of violence, for a queer body experiencing desire outside of traditional gender norms, for a body in transition. The Beloved becomes un-gendered through their transformation but, liberated from the trappings of their sex, is no less passionate. The Lover, rather than defeated, is curious, and attempts a relationship with this unrecognised form, strange to human touch, living on a different timescale, and connected with multitudes of other bodies through its ecology, rather than committed to just one.
Continuing Ovid’s exploration of humans changed to animal, plant or other natural lifeforms, Like flesh draws on ecological relationship models, re-imagining what relationships could be in our world - a world that is still aggressively resistant to the multiplicities of gender expression, and any sexual deviance from the norm.
The text of Like flesh offers a radical departure from the dialogue-based libretto. Written as a vibrant, poetic monologue for vocal ensemble, it reflects the Ancient Greek theatre chorus in keeping with the myth at its heart.
The ensemble offers narration and commentary, while soloists break out and then become submerged again, providing a surprising and democratic experience. We aim to disrupt the traditional hierarchies and expectations of how Character relates to voice type in opera, sharing the text between the full range of voice types in unexpected ways.
Like flesh aims to explore a gender-ambiguous text, reflecting a subtler spectrum of sexual identity and bringing the operatic love story to a contemporary, curious and queerer generation.
Like flesh focuses on the relationship between the human voice and its expressive, physical, and transformative possibilities. Echoing shifting states of awareness, intimacy and being, voices and characters exist on a spectrum where thresholds are naturally mutable and amorphous: Presence is accentuated through absence; action is explored through intention. Entangled, the voices are absorbed into the environment around them, created through layers of electronic sounds. Boundary-less, they spill into space, engulfed by an open-ended mosaic which is their ecology, created through live vocal processing.
Like flesh is scored for two solo voices with low and high extensions, a vocal ensemble of 4-6 singers encompassing the full vocal range, a chamber ensemble of up to 12 musicians, and live & fixed electronics supported by IRCAM.
It is a chamber opera in one act, with a running time of approximately one hour.