“I would like people who have never been to an opera before to come and see this. And I’d like those who do go to the opera to come too” — Brian Irvine, inviting us all the the world premiere of his new work, Postcards From Dumbworld, which opens at the Grand Opera House this evening.
The show ticks all the boxes of a headlining festival act — original, unexpected, a little bit challenging, hugely entertaining.
There’s been a bit of a buzz around the Opera House for event, for Irvine is one of Northern Ireland’s most innovative composers, and has built up a loyal following for his work, which will include a piece commissioned for the 2012 Olympics. His skill at combining unexpected riffs and melodies through his musicians has made him a musical favourite across the globe, and his talent netted him an MBE earlier in the year.
But the eyes of his fans are on his Festival production, which promises to create a whole new genre of opera. Twelve singers and 12 musicians have joined forces for the show, which he says is “perhaps not what most people would describe as opera”.
He’s right — this is an opera with a difference. Part cabaret, part carousel, it has charm, humour and pathos. Set in a bingo hall, the performers include KGB agents and giant rabbits. It follows the journeys of several characters on an eternal quest — the little expeditions we humans embark on, whether in search of love or giving up chocolate, journeys that takeshape roads to happiness.
“It’s full of surprises and energy,” he says. “My mum and dad, who had never been to the opera before, loved it. We’ve done something really exciting.”
He says the show has more in common with Shock-Headed Peter or Kurt Weil than it does with pieces by Mozart or Beethoven. He calls Dumbworld the place from where his creativity comes. “I’ve called in Dumbworld because it contains all the daftness of life, and because it communicates without having to use speech.”
Owen Webb, Colette McGahon and Mark Beesley provide the voices in Dumbworld, while the music comes from the Brian Irvine Ensemble.
Irvine fans will have snapped up their tickets well in advance, so anyone who fancies a journey into Dumbworld with New Chamber Opera had best get packing!
Postcards From Dumbworld is at the Grand Opera House until Saturday. Tickets must be booked through the Grand Opera House, www.goh.co.uk/tel: 028 9024 1919