[2010070] Le Grand Macabre

Le Grand Macabre

Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie / English National Opera / Gran Teatre de Liceu / Teatro dell’Opera @ Festival Theatre

7:00pm, Wed 3 Mar 2010

I don’t reckon I’m going to write much about Le Grand Macabre, because (a) it’s an opera, and I always flounder with opera, and (2) much has been written about it elsewhere.

So let’s focus on the emotional response:

Holy shit. What a spectacle!

The performance starts with a short film, projected onto the stage curtain; we’re witness to the last struggling seconds of a young woman’s life, and as she reaches out in anguish to the camera the curtain rises to reveal the massive setpiece of the woman (Claudia), completely supplanting the image from the movie. It’s an amazing transition, and the blank features of Claudia are constantly used as projection surfaces throughout the performance (the bones were fantastic as the set rotated), as well as providing much of the landscape for the production itself. At various stages of the performance, singers appear as twinkles in Claudia’s eyes; characters wave from her nipples.

The first two scenes are a feast for the eyes. The projections of flames and stars onto Claudia, her eyes turning to watch Amanda and Amando copulate onstage (my first thought being that my Dad would hate this brazen sexuality in an opera). Claudia’s tongue lolling about the stage, a piece of the furniture. The ASO doing their bit with the score, the State Opera Chorus supporting the principals well.

I could have left during the interval, having got my money’s worth of razzle-dazzle. Instead, I opted to read the synopsis.

Ah, that is what was going on! Suitably enlightened, I looked forward to the second half.

And it was completely bizarre. Absolutely batshit insane.

Claudia rotates so we can watch characters enter and leave the stage through her anus. Her buttocks are removed to reveal her intestines; the Security Guards for Prince Go-Go(!) are portrayed as pieces of poo. A nightclub scene occurs amidst the intestines, and a Thriller-esque group dance segment coalesces from seemingly nothing. There’s some brilliant comic relief in Prince Go-Go’s advisors, Venus is amazing, Nekrotzar the drunk devil is brilliant…

…See, this is why I didn’t want to write about Le Grand Macabre, because I’m reading back what I’ve written above, and none of it makes any sense… and I was there. I can only imagine how nonsensical it must appear to those completely lacking any context!

Regardless, it’s fair to say that Le Grand Macabre was an awesome spectacle. Was it good opera? I’ve no idea; but it sounded alright, and the sights were amazing.

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