It Makes No Difference by Simone Spagnolo
A moody bare stage is the setting for this opera-in-progress, which is a series of disconnected scenes inspired by writers including Dostoyevsky and Goethe. It’s not nearly as random and Becket-like as it sounds. Each scenario is completely absorbing, the troubled characters rather endearing, and it gently has the desired effect, which is that the audience will start linking everything together and creating their own narrative.
Opera has always magnified aspects of humanity, and here the characters represent ideas or psychological states. The scenes seem almost cinematic, a couple of guys brandishing a knife and a gun, a woman who gets her own identity mixed up, someone planning an explosion, and the paranoid chorus who search out someone to blame. The production has fun with props and is assured throughout.
The metaphors and ideas expressed deal with disconnection from values and contemporary confusion, and the omission of storyline leaves just enough void for the audience to be able to fill. Neither is it as nihilistic as the title may suggest: characters may feel disconnected, but they are brought together in harmony by the end. It makes some sort of difference.
It’s not a criticism to say that although it is new music, it could almost be from the mid-20th century – it sounds akin to late Stravinsky mixed with Benjamin Britten. In fact, it’s a compliment to composer Simone Spagnolo that he doesn’t just express himself without a thought for the experience and pleasure of the audience. There are plenty of nods to what has happened to music and opera since, and the layers of orchestration are at times really moving.
The onstage orchestra is small, its strings, wind and brass sounds adding to the Stravinsky-esque layers, the clarinet player crossing over into the cast.
Cultural commentators are always banging on about how opera is really accessible, and at Riverside, they put it all into action, hosting the current Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival, of which It Makes No Difference is part. What a buzzing venue, with opera in the foyer, in booths, and everyone mixing in the bar.
It’s true that you don’t have to know about opera or contemporary music to partake in it. Opera is theatre, music, performance, writing and concept all at once. An hour of different.
It Makes No Difference is at Riverside Studios on 9th and 10th August 2012.
The Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival runs at Riverside Studios until the 19th August 2012.
The composer, Simone Spagnolo’s site can be found here.