Review of Khaos the Opera


Khaos premiere March 09, 2012, Nelson B.C.


*Delphi- The name of an ancient site and a modern town in Greece. The word “Delphi” comes from the word delphys meaning “womb.” In Ancient Greece, Delphi was thought to be located at the centre of the Earth(Gaia). Gaia, the personification of Earth, descended from Chaos.

**The Oracle at Delphi (Pythia), an old woman chosen from among the local population for her blameless qualities was the conduit for the divinely inspired revelations from Apollo. She was widely consulted on all important matters.

Mythos and the Mountains

Three years ago, the visionary Amy Ferguson Institute challenged artists, Don Macdonald and Nicola Harwood with a commission to compose an opera to be mounted in Nelson. Since they had carte blanche to chose a thematic base for the project, inspiration must have come from one of the irregular appearances of the Oracle** at Delphi* outside of Ancient Greece. On her Global peregrinations to explore possibilities for emigration from her birthplace suffering a modern Greek tragedy, economic collapse, the Oracle made a sweep across the Rockies and landed briefly on Pulpit Rock. She had a lot on her ancient mind and complained that she had not been consulted recently about Gaia’s destiny.

Greece and Gaia

The Oracle at Delphi as muse of the Khaos project lent her expressions of concern for the travails of twenty first century Earth.  Modern day Gaia’s anguish, environmental degradation, climatic instability and the alarming consequences  on a fragile global equilibrium is mankind’s comeuppance for venturing immodestly into the affairs of the gods.

Khaos, the Opera and Nelson

News of an Opera with Greek mythology at its base may initially have been greeted in local circles with the bemused interest that would be elicited by the presence of an albino crow on a table outside Oso Negro, the fashionable, trendy local coffee establishment, or the sighting at Grohman Narrows of a Siberian Blue Robin, an accidental stray blown way off course, by an especially strong Pineapple Express. Maybe the project would be tongue in cheek, a Saturday Night Live kind of parody of a pretentious art form inappropriately placed off the beaten path.

We got instead a robust, unified, thought provoking production, as rich in nuance and variety as the many inspired contributions of the talented people who participated in the successful production of Khaos.

Greece and Gaia

(Greece): In the 3 year gestation period of the Khaos project the world has witnessed Greece, the cradle of Western civilization, rocked economically to the seismic core and on the brink of collapse. All of Europe may well still experience a more widespread and devastating backwash from the continuing economic tsunami in the Western World.

(Gaia): The world has also witnessed the devastation created from the environmental catastrophe of earthquake, tsunami and radiation in Japan. That the production of Khaos would take place within 48 hours of the anniversary of the Japanese disaster is uncanny.

(Synchronicity): Writhing… twisted… crawling… labouring… gasping… suffocating… reaching for air… sucking for breath… The dance conceived and performed by Mr. Ida is stunning and breathtaking, literally and figuratively: a brilliantly fitting memorial, almost to the day, to the victims of the March 11, 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami many of whom suffered an agonizingly similar death.

(Memorable Moments 1): Torn From my Body is the happy conjunction of Don’s music, Nicola’s libretto and Audrey’s powerful and moving voice.

(Memorable Moments 11): Hades, the Corporation, producing and processing corpses in a beautifully conceived, efficient, industrially mass produced, assembly line process reminiscent of the rituals of baptism in some religious traditions where corpses dance, spin to a horizontal position as they pass from hand to hand into transition to the Underworld.

(Memorable Moments 111): Into Black Water: Another powerful and unifying synthesis of music, words and voice which pulls the project together.

(Memorable Moments 1v): The lighting demonstrated throughout the production the extent to which all other elements of the composition were beholden to it. It provided the gestalt, the element so brilliantly integrated into the whole as to constitute a functional unit with it.

(Memorable Moments v): Throughout the production the contribution of the chorus was indispensable: reflecting powerfully  the emotional context of the narrative.

(Memorable Moments v1): Persephone!

The spell was broken at the Saturday March 11, 2012 performance by a minor failure of a part of the set. Fortunately all Hades did not beak loose but the incident did introduce a sobering reminder of the the fragility of success and the inevitability of hubris.

Thanks again for a remarkable experience.


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