Following on from a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe with ‘mash-up opera’ Toi Toi Toi, Glasgow based company Opera Breve present a new project for Arches Live which is an emotional fifteen minute slot directed by Stasi Schaefer.
The crushing ennui of suburban drudgery has long been a recognised trope within drama; less so in opera, which is why One Day All this Will Be Long Ago is such a startling piece. In a tiny kitchen which is stifling and sparse sit a young man and woman at opposite sides of a table, taking apart their relationship through song, the better to try to come to terms with it. Has one cheated on the other? Is love enough to sustain them? What went wrong and how? Questions hang unresolved in the air, the tension palpable.
The audience are quietly ushered into this basement space, then just as quickly sent out again: voyeurs to the snapshot of potential destruction, or reconciliation. Almost unbearably intimate, they become complicit in eavesdropping, nearly nose to nose with the performers.
With voices beautiful and lucid, the lovers sing together their mantra of, ”it was here…in the kitchen”, with small, precise gestures and looks. At one stage, the man clings to the woman’s back, delicately tracing her outline as though trying to possess it, all too alert to the possibility that she may be as elusive as the answers they seek to keep them together. Their eyes lock and voices blend and swoop in harmony, yet both seem lost in individual private worlds. Words start to overlap.
Behind them in a partition, a string quartet play Alexander Horowitz’s gorgeous, chilly score, with the conductor casting an ominous shadow on the wall, like an intruding third party.
Mostly, it is reminiscent of two awkward characters in the enigmatic short stories of American author Raymond Carver, where meaning becomes blurred, the passion which brings lovers together traps them, and the space between what is said and what should be said becomes a chasm: all communication spent – yet something in the singers’ eyes, warmth, a brief flicker of a smile or touch, suggest a chink of light in the domestic prison.
This is a potent transformative exploration of struggling to love in the climate of saturated media and instant gratification, holding it together amid everyday pressures, and the memories which are left when loved ones are gone.
As anyone who has lost a loved one through death or separation is all too aware, it is the banal detritus which is what we try to unpick, in order to both make sense of the absence and keep part of the person with us. In short, life becomes stuff, disposable.
Opera Breve fully comprehend the ephemeral nature of love and life, as fine as mist. This lovely delicate piece lingers long after the door is closed and the last audience member has left, nuanced yet touching in its brevity.