Circus Days and Nights with Malmö Opera, Cirkus Cirkör and Philip Glass
Philip Glass is deservedly considered one of the most important composers of contemporary music. His new Circus Days and Nights – an opera premiered at and streamed from the Malmö Opera in Sweden – delivers on that expectation. Fusing Glass’s characteristic minimalist music with a performance by the Cirkus Cirkör and a strong cast, it’s a blast from start to finish. Offering a magical blend of circus and opera, this is a fantastic premiere indeed.
The libretto, written by David Henry Hwang and Tilde Björfors, is based on the poetry of Robert Lax, who travelled with the Canadian Cristiani Circus Family in the 1940s. Seeing the troupe, and more widely the circus, as a profound symbol of art and an example of a rewarding life, he wrote three poetry collections based on them. Glass knew the poet in his old age. Utilising Lax’s range of experiences with the circus, Circus Days and Nights becomes a meditative experience, shedding light on the intricacies of life in the industry and its similarities with – and sometimes advantages over – life in general.
Glass’s music, performed beautifully under conductor Minna Weurlander’s wing, is hypnotic. A few simple, up-beat themes are maintained throughout the two-hour runtime and never lose their interest as they are developed in line with the libretto. It’s intoxicatingly atmospheric and fits perfectly with the circus theme. Elin Rombo (who plays the poet as a young man) and Jakob Högström (who plays him as an old man) bring the music to life and act the part with tremendous charm.
The production, too, is phenomenal. Director Tilde Björfors’s concept is magnificent, featuring a stunningly evocative circus set and costumes by Magdalena Åberg. Everything looks and feels like a genuine circus from the mid-20th century, which leads to a number of scenes that are simply mesmerising – especially those involving the extraordinary skill of the Cirkus Cirkör, whose flawless performance leaves nothing to be desired.
Needless to say, Circus Days and Nights is a brilliant success and a must-see. It gives a deep insight into a subject that is rarely considered in this day and age. Not only is it highly engaging and insightful in doing so, but it also exemplifies a rarely before seen fusion of circus with contemporary music. An astounding feat, indeed.
Circus Days and Nights with Malmö Opera, Cirkus Cirkör and Philip Glass is at from 29th May until 13th June 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.