Writing an opera - Five creative types who have written a opera
Stewart Lee, Damon Albarn, Armando Iannucci, Paul McCartney, Janice Galloway
David Shrigley is just the latest in a long line of creative types to take a detour into the opera world
The ‘comedian’s comedian’ took some time out a decade back to dash off Jerry Springer: The Opera, a paean to the trashy US talk show host and his disciples. The show’s eye-wateringly profane libretto, depictions of Biblical figures, including God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and dancing Ku Klux Klan members provoked a record 55,000 complaints when it was shown on the BBC.
The Blur frontman is fast becoming an old hand at the opera game, having collaborated on two large-scale works for the Manchester International Festival. Monkey: Journey to the West, staged in 2007, was an adaptation of a 16th century Chinese novel by Albarn’s band Gorillaz and Chinese director Chen Shi-zheng, while 2011’s Doctor Dee was inspired by comic book artist Alan Moore and based around the life of John Dee, physician to Elizabeth I.
Having conquered the worlds of radio and television satire The Thick of It creator Iannucci teamed up with composer David Sawer and Opera North to create an opera about cosmetic surgery, playfully entitled Skin Deep. Panned by the critics Iannucci’s efforts at least deserve some kudos for including a ballet of transplant organs called ‘The Dance of the Seven Bandages’.
Currently riding a wave of derision for his hook-up with New York City Ballet, Macca’s first high-profile foray into the classical oeuvre was the Liverpool Oratoria, the story of a working class Scouse family, which featured performances from superstars Kiri Te Kanawa and Willard White. While the album topped the classical charts around the world reviews were mixed, the New York Times describing the collaboration with composer Carl Davis as ‘a musically primitive assemblage of material, gussied up through some clever scoring’. Ouch!
The Saltcoats-born author of The Trick Is to Keep Breathing and Clara went back to her roots as a classically-trained musician to collaborate with acclaimed contemporary composer Sally Beamish on the libretto for the 2002 opera Monster, a speculative imagining of the events leading up to the creation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.