two boys at the coliseum (and two little pirates)

Here’s my morning sketch, two friendly pirates who are no bigger than my finger tip. And that island thingie they’re standing on is my name in Chinese. Now I’m going to go leave little red smudges on the kettle and all around the studio.

I was going to tell you about the amazing opera I saw the other night! It’s called Two Boys and the English National Opera are putting it on at the London Coliseum. Iff you’re very quick, there’s still time to see it: book tickets on the ENO website here.

Okay, the rest I’m cadging off an ecstatic e-mail I wrote to a friend about it, so I don’t have to write it twice:

I got free tickets from a friend of a friend who couldn’t go. Best seats in the house! I usually have to sit up in the gods, and I’ve stopped going to modern operas because, with the exception of Monkey: Journey to the West, they’ve all been dire. But this one floored me, it was amazing! It so perfectly captured the weird and wonderful and horrible and disembodied-but-still-very-human world of the internet in such a breathtaking way.

The story’s about this kid named Brian who’s been arrested for attempted murder; he’s been caught coming out of an alley where a younger kid’s been stabbed, and the kid’s in a coma in the hospital. It all starts with the harassed-looking police inspector, a middle-aged woman who’s trying to discover Brian’s motives, and she can’t really believe something like the Internet could have much to do with it. In a way, the story is about the police inspector discovering how deep the Internet rabbit hold can go. Which I thought was a good tactic in helping other people follow the story, who also don’t know much about the internet. There were some brilliant scenes with the main characters in front, but then background slowly illuminating a whole sea of people on laptops and in stairwells, with enormous screensaver patterns projected onto them and weavings of computer text. I loved the way the laptops lit people’s faces like those little lamps you get in the choir stalls of cathedrals; there was a lot of interplay between modern chat-room speak and high church liturgy and melodies.

Oh, it’s hard to describe – I don’t really know how to write about opera – but the elements just all worked so well together. It was tackling all these themes that you see people try to do all the time in art installations, but they either the artists haven’t put much time into it, or they’ve put so much thought into it that they don’t have the time or skill to make the sounds and visuals work and they’re incredibly boring. But in this opera, it all came together so magnificently! And I can’t give away the ending, because it really is a murder mystery and has you on the edge of your seat with suspense – at an opera! Can you imagine? – but it’s so marvelous in the way it’s such a huge solution and yet so very tiny and tragic. After the interval, you begin to realise the opera’s title is more significant than it seemed in the first half.

And there are some moments of gentle comedy, where the inspector’s elderly mother makes some seemingly inane comments that her daughter realises turn out to be very relevant to the psychology of the internet, just because the internet is life and people, just like everything else. There are some very eerie scenes, such as when two gay men are hitting on each other in a chat room, and there’s a bank of children lined up against one wall, all studiously examining their laptops, and another little boy wandering to and fro between them, looking at his little iPhone. It all sounds a bit trite or obvious, but the music really made it all come alive and somehow hit home very powerfully; I really got a sense this time of the magic of opera, and how it can do what other mediums can’t. It was so moving, I got quite choked up at the end.

I love it when things like this happen, I was expecting the evening to drag, not to have a complete epiphany! šŸ˜€

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