On Saturday morning, through the power of the interwebs, I had the extreme pleasure of watching a performance of the new opera Indigo live. This gem of an opera was composed by none other than Apocalyptica‘s Eicca Toppinen and Perttu Kivilaakso (with libretto by Sami Parkkinen). I’m so proud of *my* boys! It is rare to experience a modern opera that doesn’t numb you with its atonality. Eicca and Perttu have spoken of their goal to make a melodic, listenable modern opera (in contrast to the more common teeth-grinding dissonance) and they have succeeded in spades.
Several of the arias and duets are worthy of their Romantic Era-predecessors, including (I’m guessing at the titles based on my notes and this tweet from Perttu) “Dream of Aurelia” by Daniel at the beginning and the duet between Myrna and Aurelia “The Faithful Ones(??)” in Act II. They did not, however, abandon the modern entirely, with the use of a drum kit, one scene that played almost more like musical theater (in a good way–RIP Carl), and several instrumental sections that felt like early Bond soundtrack themes (which of course I loved). The modern story line, about a stimulant that eventually develops devastating side effects for the general populace and the resulting drama for its creators, is made more poignant by the accessible music and the excellent performances of the Helsinki Opera. I have my fingers crossed for a cast recording (hint hint Eicca & Perttu)!
The promises of a “metallic opera” were not really fulfilled (it was no more–and perhaps less–rock n roll than Phantom of the Opera, to use an easy reference) but I do not see this as a disappointment.* What this is, where they have excelled, is at finding a way to compose an opera that acknowledges the past but does not forget the present. All this while being melodic and accessible and familiar without being clichéd. All of this while their day job is to rock your socks off playing heavy metal cello.**
Speaking of, it takes real courage to say fuck it, we’re writing an opera. This is not an easy undertaking for anyone (except maybe Mozart) and to not only complete it but it to excel at it is an awesome feat. They’ve written a bold statement of where classical music can (should, imho!) go in the 21st Century. In a way, the members of Apocalyptica, perhaps unintentionally or at least only one move at time, have always been on the vanguard of redefining what classical music–i.e. modern instrumental music–is. It can be chamber arrangements of Metallica, fist pumping anthems, avant garde Wagnerian spectacles, or beautiful instrumental arias. It is time to develop new classifications, new palettes, new understandings of music as we ease into the new century.
I love this quote from them (in this article) because it really sums up how I felt growing up–surely I can’t be the only one??***
“Put simply, this is the opera that we would like to see. It has no target group as such, just as Apocalyptica doesn’t. If we love it, we can’t be the only ones. That’s how we do everything we do.”
Alas, finding a usable embed link for the opera trailer hasn’t panned out, but you can watch it in its glory here (scroll to the middle of the page).
To satisfy your Apocalyptica cravings (you know have them!), here is their current single. It’s a collaboration with the Japanese band VAMPS (whom I highly recommend–sort of Japan’s answer to HIM. I saw them with Apo and Sixx:AM last year and they were fantastic!).
If you happen to be in Helsinki before Feb. 18, I recommend grabbing some tickets!
*There is a chance that since I grew up playing cello and listening to heavy metal that the line in the sand between the two is no longer as obvious for me, so I welcome the thoughts of others who have heard/seen it.
**This is why Apo have been my musical heroes since 1998. They make me feel like:
*** This article delves into the classical/metal connection a bit more deeply. I apologize in advance for the insane amount of pop ups. 😛