Last Saturday’s dose of opera was one for the books for two reasons: Malta’s musical pride and joy, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, conjured a beautiful spell on its audiences once again, and this time, for an innovative experiment in rhythm in a video opera project called ‘Up-Close’.
Composed by the Dutch-born Michel van der Aa and conducted by Pavel Šnajdr, this video opera project was undoubtedly a highlight in this year’s Malta Arts Festival calendar. Intended as a redrawing of the boundaries of opera and video, the project employed a paralleling technique, which saw the two media woven together into a dynamic, live performance which went beyond music kicking in once a dramatic scene sets in or vice-versa.
Instead, the dynamic nature of the performance also stretched to the movement of the musicians on stage at the Grand Hotel Excelsior ballroom, the lighting and the general mood of the space. The exchange between various elements of the performance proved to be very interesting; especially as the entire performance rhythmically mirrored actions on-screen as well as off it, itself potentially a comment on identity and reality, and their pluralism across media. At a certain point, renowned Austrian cello-player, Konstanze von Gutzeit, even refuted her cello to walk along the stage, past the screen, with a lamp in her hand, so as to mimic an old woman’s actions on-screen.
The programme also included ‘Triple Quartet’ by Steve Reich and ‘Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten’ by Arvo Pärt, both of them equally splendid pieces.
The Malta Arts Festival Calendar continues till August 2nd with a mix of theatre, dance, music and film. Check out the Malta Arts Festival website (http://www.maltaartsfestival.org/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MaltaArtsFestival) for more details.