The Post-Apocalyptic Opera

Trip Start Jul 14, 2013
Trip End Aug 15, 2013

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Flag of Austria  , Austrian Alps,
Monday, July 29, 2013

I almost don't have the energy to write today's entry right now, but I really can't skip writing today or else I'll forget the details.

Basically, I had my mind blown.

The day started out normally. German class, voice lessons, lunch, and masterclass. A bunch of us, including yours truly, also had tickets for tonight's opera, Gawain.

Okay. Before I go on, follow that link and read Gawain's plot. 


No, seriously. Just do it.

Ready? Okay, read it through again. Trust me.

So, now that you're thoroughly confused, let me explain.

Those of you who know me are aware that I'm into the whole post-apocalyptic survival deal. I love The Walking Dead and Zombies, Run! and all that. Therefore, when I heard that the opera was written in such a sci-fi setting, I was pretty excited.

The opera started with Star-Trek-font captions to the effect of "It is the year 2021. A catastrophe has wiped out much of the human race. Those who are left struggle daily for survival."

The stage was huge and intricately decorated. On the right, about seven or eight old cars were piled on top of each other and covered in moss as they suffered from severe rust damage. A decrepit but still functioning van stood silently next to them waiting to be used. Then, from the middle to the left, the stage was set up to be a decaying cement warehouse with peeling greenish paint, fogged windows, a ladder, and a splintering old piano. Everything was dirty and stage fog hung around the audience long before the performance even started. Then, the wall behind the "warehouse" was an enormous layout of pillars and tunnels where people could walk and sneak around in shadow and brightness depending on the stage lights. The stage wall decor even curved into the audience, so we felt as though we were completely shrouded in the scenery.
I was digging it, and the show hadn't even started.

But brace yourself.

Within the first five minutes, weird stuff started going down. The characters, covered in dust and dirt and wearing essentially rags, trudged onstage and acted as if-- big surprise-- they were a lucky few fighting for their lives. Then, two men got into a fight resulting in the death of one. Instead of, you know, burying the body, the starving people pounced on the dead guy and started eating him.

Cannibalism. In the first five minutes.

They even went as far as to show this guy's innards as the other people ripped him apart and passed around his flesh. Of course, it didn't look entirely real, but dear goodness was it graphic. Red everywhere. These people didn't even fall in the ranks of the undead and they were just chowing down.

Another thing about the opera was that they had dogs onstage for much of it. They were trained to sort of walk around and interact with the people. They used these two gorgeous German shepherds-- one with normal coloring, and one white. I thought they were just the most adorable things ever until the people let them at the dead man so they could feast on his entrails as well. I wondered vaguely through my shock if they smothered the guy in bacon-flavored paste or something so the dogs would lick him clean.

So. After that lovely introduction to the opera, things just got even better. Two narrators-- a soprano and a mezzo-- were both just these lumps covered in greenery and leaves. They matched the Green Knight, who came in riding a stone horse and looked much like a mess of moss himself. It was like the Lord of the Rings tree people and the Jolly Green Giant combined into one scary baritone.

Don't even get me started on the dance chorus. At first, they were normal enough, but when they started stripping down and smothering themselves in mud and powdered sugar, I knew something was up. They spent the entire opera in the background performing some suspiciously Bacchanale-like dances save for the one where they all crawled into a circle and started having seizures all over the stage in their fits of pagan worship. Honestly, they were the zombies the opera desperately needed. Cannibalism, dragging limbs and vacant stares? Check.

So at this point, as you can imagine, I had no clue what was even happening in the plot of the opera. The next thing I knew, there were some flashing fluorescent lights bright enough to spur a round of epilepsy before Gawain, King Arthur's son, revved up a chainsaw and hacked the Green Knight's head off.

Oh. And Gawain was essentially an Indiana Jones wannabe who rocked a fedora and pretended he knew how to swing an axe.

Much of the opera continued on this way. After Morgan le Fay tried and failed to seduce Gawain, resulting in some strange match-ups in the kissing department, she gave him a belt that would save him from all physical harm. Knowing that he was to die at the hands of the now-dead Green Knight coming back to haunt him, Gawain donned the belt, which then started glowing a bright neon green.

I take it back. Gawain was an Indiana Jones wannabe at a Star Wars convention wearing the last vestiges of a Tron costume.

If that weren't enough, at the end of the opera, the zombie people decide that Gawain would make a tasty treat, and there went more flying strips of skin.

And that's how the opera ended.

I'm not going to lie: It wasn't my favorite opera. I'm not a huge fan of contemporary opera music. This music was comprised of two long stretches of dissonant, through-composed chords with no discernible melodic themes and continuously changing rhythms and tempos. However, this could also have been a function of my focus on the visual side of it-- as you can imagine, I could not tear my eyes away from what was happening onstage.

However, I actually did enjoy watching it. The sets, costumes, vocal quality, and orchestra were all stunning. Although it was the most bizarre opera-- or even stage production-- I had ever seen (I mean, who on Earth thought of combining King Arthur's court with the end of the world?), I thought it was fabulously interesting. Until the last scene, I was at the edge of my seat and just staring open-mouthed at the insanity happening onstage. Besides, the graphic design was amazing. The huge, three-story set of pillars and tunnels were used like enormous projector screens where scenes of molten lava, fire, waterfalls, falling rocks, swishing leaves, and cracking stone were shown correlating to the scene in the opera. That tactic was very original and changed the atmosphere of the opera quickly as it progressed. Even the stage lighting would move across the pillars and shift the shadows, making the background look as though it were alive.

I'm so exhausted. We walked back to the dorm afterwards, had dinner, and studied for a while as we digested what in the name of God we had just watched.

I thought it was amazing. Incredibly creepy, disturbing, and insane, but an utter work of art.

...I hope I don't dream about it tonight. Nope. No thank you.
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Ana Krawec on

Whoa! That sounds..... interesting. How did the audience react?

christinakrawec on

Some audience members left at the end of the first act. I saw one girl crying at the cannibalism. However, much of the audience found it fascinating too.

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