An opera about bankers – the timing could not have been better
The ‘AntiMidas’ cast of four double as a Greek chorus and the media, presented as a wild line-up of TV pundits
Maybe it should come as no surprise that ‘AntiMidas’, or ‘Bankers in Hades’, is not actually by an Irish composer, but by a Greek, Evangelia Rigaki
The timing could hardly have been better for an opera about bankers. AntiMidas, or Bankers in Hades, premiered in the week when Ireland was getting ready to exit the package of stringently supervised loans that, without a trace of irony and in spite of the draconian preconditions involved, is almost universally referred to as the bailout.
Maybe it should come as no surprise that AntiMidas, which ran for three nights at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in Trinity College, is not actually by an Irish composer, but by a Greek, Evangelia Rigaki, who since 2010 has been assistant professor in composition at Trinity and is also the director of the college’s music composition centre.
The anti-Midas created by Rigaki and her librettist, Scottish poet WN Herbert, is the richest man in the world. His fate is to turn from someone whose touch turns everything into gold into an unfortunate whose touch turns everything into shit, literally.
The plot is worked out in terms of Greek mythology. Anti-Midas offends Pluto, who calls on Cloacina to place a curse on the over-reaching zillionaire. The cast of four double as a Greek chorus and the media, amusingly presented as a wild line-up of talkshow TV pundits. In fact, it was the writing for those pundits and the instrumental explosions for percussion which made the greatest musical impression of the evening.
The production, directed, designed and lit by John Lloyd Davies, had all the signs of being put together on an austerity budget, but with lots of style and imagination.
The four multi-tasking singers – tenor Tyrone Landau in the title role, with mezzo soprano Tamsin Dally, soprano Catherine May and baritone Owen Gilhooly – performed with great spirit, although conductor Lindy Tennent-Brown didn’t always manage to ensure that the words were audible enough over the five-player ensemble. The details of the goings-on of bankers are always, perhaps, going to be a slightly murky business.
Things going wrong
Ask anyone who has been active in the performing arts and they will be able to tell you about the weirdest ways in which things can go wrong. Conductors lose their batons, strings break, the reeds of wind instruments fail, there’s a power cut (I once experienced one at an opera production sponsored by the ESB), sets break, a key player doesn’t show up, a touring orchestra ends up in one city with its instruments in another, and singers who have lost their voices to infection walk through their roles on stage while someone else sings from the wings or the pit.
The Hugh Lane Gallery has this month added to the perversity of affliction that can be inflicted on performers. The first concert of the month, a programme of work by Frank Corcoran (Music for the Book of Kells and Trauerfelder) and Thom Hasenpflug given by the RIAM percussion ensemble under Richard O’Donnell, very nearly had to be cancelled, and in the event Hasenpflug’s Bicksa had to be dropped.
The problem was volume. Percussion pieces are often very loud (the marking on the fortissimo opening page of Bicksa is “Burnin’!”) and the level of sound in rehearsal set off the alarm system. The energy transmitted through the air caused an amount of movement in an extremely valuable artwork that was sufficient to trigger the alarm. Turning off the alarm was not an option, as it would have invalidated the gallery’s insurance policy.