I knew I was going to love it from the opening moments when live ravens flew over my head onto the stage. I’m a sucker for a trained raven!
But, being terminally unhip, I had no idea who Damon Albarn was. It turns out he is the frontman of the UK alt-rock band Blur (?) and the creator of the animated pop-rockers Gorillaz. (??) Okay, I’m still terminally unhip.
The real reason I went to see the opera was because I really like Dr. John Dee. Actually, “obsessed” is more accurate. I even have a small tattoo of the Divine Monad on my wrist… (See glyph on opera poster above.)
No one can say I don’t own my crazy.
Who is Dr. John Dee, you say? Only one of the most fascinating figures of the Elizabethan era! He was a trusted adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, as well as an astronomer, mathematician, navigator, alchemist, spy and celestial necromancer.
Dee was also a magus and a mystic who attempted to talk to angels. Unfortunately, the Good Doctor fell in with an occultist of dubious reputation, Edward Kelley, who convinced Dee that the angels wanted them to swap wives.
Dee reluctantly agreed, and bad fortune followed. The very stuff of which great operas are made!
Albarn’s opera turns Dee’s life into a variation on the Faust legend, with Dee entering a doomed agreement with a demonic Kelley. It really works!
The music is more English folk music than rock, surprisingly. The orchestra plays authentic 16th century instruments, with spoken narration and lead vocals from Albarn, who is quite good.
The opera ends with more ravens. Cool!
If you have a chance, go see it. It’s playing for another few weeks in London, and I’m sure it will turn up in other cities as well!
- The fantastic Dr Dee: angels, magic and the birth of modern science | Carole Jahme (guardian.co.uk)
- Dr Dee – Damon Albarn (weheartmusic.typepad.com)
- Damon Albarn interview: the magic and mystery of Dr Dee (telegraph.co.uk)
- A Wizard’s Review Of Dr Dee – The Opera (runesoup.com)