Genetic science inspires opera

11/18/04

A fusion of music, art and science, inspired by contemporary genetic discovery and brought together in the style of a chamber opera, is to have its world premiere at Baltic, the Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

'Hidden States' is the result of a trans-Atlantic collaboration involving music scholars and visual artists from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. It will be performed publicly for the first time at Baltic on Friday 26 November.

The project is the first collaboration on a music theatre project between British composer Jonathan Owen Clark, formerly a lecturer in the International Centre for Music Studies at Newcastle University, and American opera specialist and librettist, David Moody, who is Assistant Director of the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

Conceived as a chamber opera for a small ensemble and baritone performed alongside specially-commissioned synchronised video projections, 'Hidden States' draws parallels between alchemy – the forerunner of modern chemistry – and contemporary genetic science. In a sequence of five monologues, Paracelcus the alchemist – sung by baritone Paul Carey Jones – articulates his hopes and dreams for the creation of a living human being from inanimate matter.

Composer Jonathan Owen Clark said: 'Collaboration between artists and scientists in the quest to explain some of the myths and mysteries of cutting edge science and its history is not a new idea, but in Hidden States the aim is to provide, in perhaps a new format, an account of certain key concepts in contemporary genomics and bioinformatics. These include sequencing and cloning, and how they fit within the broader themes of cultural, literary and scientific history.

'This first performance is a self-contained entity designed for programming into one half of a chamber opera double bill, and we envisage that a full-scale opera will grow out of this project', he added.

The project has been funded by a Ł15,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust's Engaging Science Programme, which aims to raise awareness of biomedical research and its social implications. Scientists at Newcastle University and at the University of Oxford's Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics provided advice on the scientific content of the work.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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