I was lucky enough to be offered balcony tickets to see the much-hyped modern opera Babylon at the Bayerische Staatsoper last night, and naturally I jumped at the chance to see what all the fuss was about.
It was possibly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in a theatre. It was lavish, insane, extravagant. The production was astounding, and at the end my eyes hurt from the graphics, the colours, the costumes and the creatures. There were so many things about the opera that were astounding, but perhaps my favourite aesthetic element was the curtain of fire (you can see it in the trailer below).
Jörg Widmann’s composition was strong and imposing. It’s no wonder that Widmann received the loudest standing ovation in the house. The orchestra ventured into circus music at one point – and seamlessly pulled it off.
The story unfolds in the Akkadian city of Babylon. A Jew, Tammu, falls in love with a priestess in the Temple of Free Love, Inanna. Inanna’s a Babylonian Mick Jagger, happy to sleep with anything that comes her way, but Tammu particularly takes her fancy. All is well, until the Gods unleash chaos on the universe, causing Noah’s flood and powerful storms. The Babylonians commit a human sacrifice to restore peace on earth – and unluckily for Tammu and Inanna, it’s Tammu who’s chosen.
We then follow Inannu into the underworld, where she rids herself of her ostentatious jewels to humbly beg for Tammu’s return to Babylon.
There were some big names involved in Babylon. One of Germany’s most popular actors, the Austrian-American August Zirner played Ezechiel. Sir Willard White, CBE was one of my favourites, playing the head-priest – and then a wonderful, stuttering performance as Death herself.
If you’re not lucky enough to catch the show live, you’ll be able to catch the entire stream on the Bayerische Staatoper website between 9-11 November, 2012. The opera’s in German, and the live performance includes German subtitles – but if you watch online, you’ll have the option to choose English subtitles.