Artist Len Lye celebrated in new multi-media opera
In a feat of artistic innovation, the life and work of one of this country’s most inventive artists will soon be immortalised in an original New Zealand opera.
New Zealand-born Len Lye (1901-1980) was a pioneer of kinetic art and filmmaking whose work challenged traditional boundaries and forged new explorations of sound and movement.
Fittingly, then, LEN LYE the opera promises to be a multi-media extravaganza featuring a jazz-influenced score and an original mix of music, theatre, film, dance and spectacle.
The opera boasts an acclaimed cast of international singers including James Harrison (UK), sopranos Ursula Langmayr (Austria) and Lilia Carpinelli (Italy) as well as New Zealand favourites Anna Pierard, Carmel Carroll and Te Oti Rakena.
The award-winning creative team includes Eve de Castro-Robinson (composer), Roger Horrocks (libretto), Uwe Grodd (artistic director and conductor) and Murray Edmond (stage director), Shirley Horrocks (moving images), Kristen Sorrenson (costume design), Nik Janiurek (lighting design).
As a burgeoning young artist in Christchurch, Lye realised he wanted to “compose motion, just as musicians compose sound”. This revelation remained central to his life and art, informing six decades of creative work in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States that included films, paintings, drawings, writings and sculpture.
In addition to his kinetic works, Lye was highly regarded as a filmmaker whose radical techniques broke new ground, particularly in the field of animation. His technique of “direct animation” – a process of drawing and scratching designs directly onto film – has earned him the accolade of “legendary” among many animators.
Composer Eve de Castro Robinson has long been fascinated with Len Lye, who she describes as the “quintessential creative figure - with an exuberant, quirky personality and a life story dramatic enough to be opera material”. The composer describes LEN LYE the opera as a “21st century opera,” with a varied score featuring both jazz and classical compositions.
Opera libretto and Len Lye biographer Roger Horrocks acknowledges the challenges of mounting a contemporary, original opera - and is confident that the production will do justice to its central figure.
“Len Lye used to say, ‘I think my art will be pretty good for the 21st century,’ and that is borne out by the rising interest in his work. We believe there’s a growing audience interested in what’s new and fresh in music, in theatre, and in the visual arts. A great team of creative people are contributing their ideas to this production to ensure it has lots of 'wow moments,' and to prove that contemporary opera can be entertaining as well as relevant, full of surprises for both eyes and ears!”
LEN LYE the opera will be premiered at the Maidment Theatre (7 Alfred St) from 5-8 September. Tickets are available from the Maidment Theatre box office on 09 308 2383 or www.maidment.auckland.ac.nz
For more information about the opera visit www.lenlyeopera.auckland.ac.nz