Monday, December 10, 2012

KIMISIS – FALLING ASLEEP

Production by IHOS OPERA as part of the Queenstown Heritage and Arts Festival
October 2012

by Elizabeth Barsham

Inspired by the Greek Orthodox feast commemorating the Dormition, the death of the Virgin Mary and her assumption into Heaven, Kimisis takes the theme set by yesterday’s commemorative activities to another level. In the Church this service lasts several hours, but Con Koukias has considerately compressed his version into just twenty minutes.

As we file into the old Honan’s Transport warehouse we are each given a lighted candle and sent to sit on seats separated by high partitions, inspired by the chapel in the Model Prison at Port Arthur where convicts attending church services were isolated, able to see nothing but the officiating minister. There are not many seats, a single row surrounding a small space. In the centre a black-robed woman lies on a Pilates trapeze which, in this context, suggests a bier rather than an exercise machine, its chrome reflecting sinister highlights in the darkness.

Later, Rebecca tells me that Kimisis has previously been performed in a completely blacked-out space, and the theatrical lighting is less dramatic in here. However, I think the dusty light filtering through holes and gaps in the walls and roof of the old warehouse provides an eerie and atmospheric setting completely in harmony with the mood of the piece. Rebecca, with her generous figure, dark hair and powerful voice, is perfect for the part, slowly rising from the “dead” as a second figure, hooded, black-clad and bearded, circles in front of us. She sings words based on Greek Orthodox and Byzantine hymn forms; there is incense and minimalist accompaniment by electric trombone and other electronic effects. Our candles are extinguished, the singer is sprinkled with glitter, we are asperged with herbs dipped in water, a large fish is carried around the circle.

It is all very symbolic and slightly iconoclastic and quite beautiful.

Kimisis – soprano Rebecca Hilder; electric trombone and effects Les Johnson
More about IHOS Opera and Kimisis: http://www.ihosopera.com/repertoire/kimisis/

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