Written by Music

Piccard in Space

A couple of weeks ago, saw the premiere of Will Gregory’s Piccard in Space at the Southbank.
Before you think anything else: no this is not about Jean-Luc Picard, the fictional Star Trek character, but August Piccard (although if Wikipedia is to be believed, there is a link).
In 1931, Piccard and Paul Kipfer attempted to reach the upper atmosphere in a specially constructed balloon. In that respect, they became very early space pioneers. In that first flight they went up nearly 16km in a flight that lasted a large part of the day.
Will Gregory – one half of Goldfrapp – has written an opera based on this story and it was pretty entertaining. As well as the two explorers in the capsule, Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein play characters, with a scientific subplot explaining the fundamental changes in understanding coming from Einstein that meant that Newton had been wrong.
I must admit that the opera wasn’t the best thing I’ve heard, although I was relatively satisfied with it. I watched the recent Anna Nicole opera on BBC Four recently, and it shares a certain number of stylistic devices (a large chorus permamently on hand). But I’d have liked it to be more electronic and the music closer to the kind of things that Goldfrapp ordinarily do.
The staging was good with a number of projections be well used – for example the dials of the capsule as it ascends. But the music just needed to be a little more – out there.
Anyway, you can hear the opera on Wednesday on Radio 3.