Opera etiquette in the Algae Age

This month, The Algae Opera, is presented as part of the Beyond Biennale Festival at the EYE Theatre in Amsterdam.  But just what can people expect as they step into the future and meet Evalga, the algae opera singer...

In 2014, there's still a certain etiquette when attending an opera. For some, the etiquette begins with what to wear and making sure you have enough opera small talk for the interval. For others, it is the need to remember to applaud when the conductor enters. There's the worry about making sure you pre-order your interval drink so you don't have to down your G&T and watch Act II in a gin haze because it took most of the interval to be served. And of course, there's the awkward moment of when to clap...

When we were designing The Algae Opera, we shifted the dramaturgy of the genre from the opera house to the dinner plate.  This re-design meant we had to re-explore the relationship between the singer and audience, and the singer to the performance space. In our initial exploration of this new state, we were inspired by the concepts of the theatre and film director, Peter Brook: "Opera is a nightmare of vast feuds over tiny details; of surrealist anecdotes that all turn round the same assertion: nothing needs to change. Everything in opera must change..."  (Peter Brook, The Empty Space)

One of the ideas we played with was to create a breath ceremony to produce sonically enhanced bitter or sweet algae.  This approach encouraged us to explore the rituals of a Japanese Tea Ceremony which freed us from the narrative structures of the opera tradition. Through the narrative lens of a ceremony, we were able to make the invisible visible by shifting the audience from a passive observer to one who is an active participant who could explore how new eating rituals can 'create alternative relationships with the ‘producer’ and enhance the sensory experience of eating.’ (Burton and Nitta).

So when you come to dine with us and step into 2060, there's no opera house, no conductor to applaud, you don't need to pre-order your interval drink or worry about interval small talk.  Is it opera as you know it? Absolutely not. In the words of Burton, 'It's opera as you've never tasted it before.'

Blog Photograph: Making Algae, Photography by Matt McQuillan (2012)


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