Mahogany Opera Group unveil a new opera at Aldeburgh this weekend. A tale of love and shared psychosis, presented as a staged production and concept album with music by Emily Hall, libretto by Sjón
Insanity, electricity and love collide in a sonic voyage into the shared psychosis known as ‘folie à deux’, where a delusion is transmitted from one person to another. A woman is struggling to connect with her lover. Their idyllic life on a quiet hillside changes irrevocably as an electricity pylon is constructed outside their house. He starts to believe that the pylon has a special power over him: “If you listen, listen closely…it is saying such wonderful things…” His delusion passes on to his partner, and as the madness takes hold, sparks begin to fly.
Emily Hall’s intricately crafted songs are woven together for two singers, an acoustic harp and a specially created electro-magnetic harp in this modern folk tale. This newly created instrument uses vibrating magnets to evoke an underlying electronic presence representing the pylon – the third character that presides over this story. Against a backdrop of responsive light and sound, the result is a hauntingly beautiful soundscape which takes its influences from many musical idioms ranging classical, jazz, pop and folk.
Hall has teamed up with award-winning Icelandic lyricist, writer and long-time Björk collaborator Sjón, to create the piece: “I wanted to write an opera with no recitative, so I wanted to work with a writer with a background in writing lyrics as well as drama and narrative. Sjón came up with the idea of The Pylon as the focus of the delusion; which felt seriously good because of all its sonic and visual possibilities.”
The theatrical production of Folie à Deux will also feature innovative lighting technology designed by Dan Large, which responds to the music and movements of the performers, operated by a single projector. Director Frederic Wake-Walker explains: “We’ve been developing this lighting technology for a couple of years now but this will be the first time we will use it in a show properly. We have been experimented with ‘playing’ the lights live, and the resulting interaction with the performers is very exciting.”
The idea for the narrative was triggered by a conversation between composer Emily Hall and Dr Lisa Conlan, a Consultant Psychiatrist at London’s Maudsley Hospital, about a rare psychotic syndrome known as folie à deux – in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another. Emily Hall explains : “I was very taken with the idea of folie à deux as it seemed to be an exaggeration of many real life relationships, where one half of the couple dominates the other.”
Folie à Deux received it’s world premiere in Bergen, Norway earlier this month as part of the Borealis Festival in partnership with Bergen National Opera. The work will then debut in Sweden at Stockholm’s Kulturhuset on 14 March, and will receive its London premiere on 6 and 7 June at Spitalfields Music Summer Festival, where Emily Hall is one of the festival’s Associate Artist curators. Frederic Wake-Walker shares his feelings on the premiere: “This piece is very special to me personally, it’s the first work that I’ve commissioned as Artistic Director of Mahogany Opera Group – seeing that whole process come to fruition will be wonderful. It also makes a strong statement about the sort of work we will be making at Mahogany – bringing exceptional and varied people together, developing genuinely new and different ideas and speaking to audiences in an intimate and dynamic way.”
Part staged performance, part concept album, Folie à Deux is a lyrical and intense investigation into love and loneliness within a relationship.
29 March 2015, 5.00pm, Jubilee Hall, Crabbe St, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP15 5BN
Tickets: £15 / £7.50 under-27’s
Book at ONLINE HERE or Box Office 01728 687110