By Lucy Wilson
In signature style IHOS Opera staged their performance Kimisis in a unique setting, this time in Old Hanan’s Transport Warehouse in Hunter Street, Queenstown. The audience gathered just inside the old dark shed, as piercing daylight poked through thousands of little holes in the corrugated iron walls. Greek incense wafted and a wheelbarrow of sand held a golden abundance of slim burning candles.
Kimisis means to sleep. I couldn’t help recalling the surviving miners' description of retrieving the bodies of their dead mates from deep in the mine, lying in a peaceful repose as if they’d lain down and drifted into sleep against the rocky walls of the tunnels.
The opera was based on an important Greek ritual, which celebrates death and assumption into heaven, and had been artfully distilled into 20 minutes. We were each given a candle and entered the next chamber to sit between black partitions and became part of the ceremony. Mixing earnest tradition with something completely left-field and quirky, a black revolving Pilates Trapeze Machine was at the centre of the performance. Soprano Rebecca Hilder lay on the table whilst singing and sparingly doing quasi Pilates exercises. Perhaps the Pilates table was an oblique reference to the modern daily ritual for some people? Whilst it seemed a bit cheeky it didn’t diminish the sophistication of this contemporary opera.
In the centre of this ritualistic darkness Hilder’s strong female voice sang like a flame – sensual and flickering. The rain poured on the tin roof and for a moment a festival helicopter ride choggammed above as if it was part of Con Koukias’s sublime composition.
Whilst the work was not created in direct response to Queenstown, and was actually commissioned by MONA FOMA, it was transporting and gave an angel’s voice to the commemorative services held over the weekend.