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Opera Essentials: Glare

Our quick guide to this ‘robot opera’ that questions what it is that makes us human, and explores themes of trust, reality and loneliness.

By Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager)

7 November 2014 at 10.01am | Comment on this article

The Story Begins…
Alex’s new girlfriend, Lea, is perfect – too perfect. He begins to feel uneasy in her presence, but she doesn’t understand why. Christina, Alex's ex, warns Lea that he could be dangerous. Alex’s friend Michael agrees that Lea’s behaviour is unnatural, and explains that Lea is a machine. Alex, terrified, finally confronts Lea…

How Human Can a Robot Become?
Composer Søren Nils Eichberg and librettist Hannah Dübgen – each making their Royal Opera debuts with Glare – were both fascinated by the ambiguity between something that is real or unreal, natural or artificial. A machine with artificial intelligence can learn from experience. The more it learns, the better it can interact – and, perhaps, become indistinguishable from ‘real’ humans.

Blinded by the Glare of Possibilities
Glare is director Thaddeus Strassberger’s second work for The Royal Opera, after directing Verdi’s I due Foscari on the main stage a few weeks earlier. He was intrigued by the implications of Eichberg and Dübgen’s work on how we define ourselves. 'We melt time in our heads, invent conversations, insist on the truth and promulgate lies. But are we blinded by the glare of all the possibilities that exist around us? Who do we want to be? Who do we want you to be? Who are we?'

Electronic Ambivalence
Faced with the dilemma of creating a credible character who may not be real, Eichberg turned to electronics in his music: ‘it helped to create this level of ambiguity: is it real, is it not real?' He’s also drawn on the traditional operatic convention of returning motifs to deepen the confusion: ‘with Lea, you can suggest that she is a robot who repeats certain phrases when triggered to do so. Then, if you make other characters repeat stuff too, it blurs the picture again.'

A World Premiere
Glare is the second operatic world premiere in the Linbury Studio Theatre this Season. The cast includes two former Jette Parker Young Artists: conductor Geoffrey Paterson (2010–12) and baritone Ashley Riches (2012–14), along with three other young up-and-coming singers, Amar MuchhalaSky Ingram and Clare Presland. Together they enact the intense, intimate chamber play of Dübgen and Eichberg’s text.

Glare runs 14–22 November 2014. Tickets are still available.
The production is generously supported by the Friends of Covent Garden.

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