Highlights, Athens, February 2002, Greece's monthly art magazine
A Multimedia Ark
by Theodoros Abazis
Multimedia art may not be a totally original idea anymore. Nevertheless, a multimedia opera with an environmental content based on the biblical story of Noah, an offspring of international collaborations and with the participation of three Greeks- one of them, Sofia Serghi - has beyond doubts many interesting aspects.
On Thursday, February 6, the Pompoen Theater presented the first performance of the multimedia opera The Noah's. The opera involves an international collaboration, extremely important for us, due to the participation of the Cypriot composer Sofia Serghi and the Greek singers Elly Marina Casdas (soprano) and Manolis Papadakis (baritone): three new promising names in Greek music, with a distinguished presence in Greece and abroad. The initial idea for this performance belongs to the artist Nikki Lindt. Ms. Lindt, of Dutch and American origin, has worked as a set designer for the theater and television, in Europe and the US. Also, she has tutored for Yale University (assistant teacher) and Carnegie Mellon (adjunct assistant professor) and has also worked for Peter Greenaway.
Beyond the special interest for Greece, the idea of a multimedia opera with a subject derived from the biblical tradition brings forth many questions. We had the opportunity to ask Nikki Lindt herself.
- Ms. Lindt, how did this rather strange idea of The Noah's occur?
- The natural environment is one of the two main sources of inspiration for my work- the other one being human relationships. Many years ago, I saw Brittens opera "Noye's Fludde" and was thrilled. It was since then that I wanted to do something relevant to this subject. One and a half year ago, I painted eighty portraits which I interpreted as opera actors. These were actually the raw material for this production. Eventually, I combined the portraits, my interest in the environment and Noah's story and the idea of this visual opera was born.
- What does the term "visual opera" actually mean?
- In this production, image is more important than the settings of an opera. There are two singers on the set which are narrators, while a series of images are projected on a wide screen in the center of the stage. All these are accompanied by contemporary classical and electronic music. The visual images together with the music project the plot of the story. Dj Radion accompanies and interrupts the story with his sounds and the way he mixes them with Sofia Serghi's pre-recorded music.
- Is Tom Lindt, the libretto writer, your relative?
- He's my father. I feel very lucky that he accepted to write the libretto. I gave him an idea of what I wanted and he wrote a fantastic text in a very contemporary style, full of tragicomic situations.
- Did you retain the biblical plot of the story?
- The plot is the same until the moment that Noah's wife refuses to abandon civilization and Noah- while discussing it with her- begins to doubt his actions. The doubts become more intense during the counting of the animals when God's voice mentions the name "Homo Sapiens". After an intensive internal conflict, Noah decides to disobey God's commands.
- What is your evaluation of this story in terms of symbolism?
- The theme of Noah's ark is the medium through which I express my discourse concerning the environmental disaster and the evolution in genetic science. The flood symbolizes the changes in the climate, while the animals are mounted on the vessel two by two in a pattern that resemblesthe genetic code of DNA (organized in a spiral chain ). Noah denies to accept the tragic consequences of climate changes and the end of society. Instead of following the commands of a superior power passively, he decides to take action and find the solution on his own.
- How did your collaboration with Sofia Serghi begin?
- I met Sofia at a concert of her music. I immediately noticed that her style was a perfect match to my work. I spoke to her about the kind of performance I had in mind and she accepted with great enthusiasm.
- Did her music influence your artistic choices?
- We worked separately with Sofia, as well as with Dj Radion. We discussed the theme and I sent them the story board of the opera, upon which the composition of the video art was based. Then I let them work freely, with no effort from my behalf to influence there artistic choices. I wanted to find out how they conceived the story, how they felt about it and how they could interpret it. Certainly, this freedom has a risk factor, but if the feeling of the team is right, deep inside you know that it will work positively in the end.
- And did it actually work?
- Absolutely! I am more than satisfied with their work. Both Sofia's and Radion's music match the aesthetics of my work and "mingle" unexpectedly in a successful way.
- How did you select the Greek singers?
- Sofia chose the singers and I agreed. I am very interested in foreign artists. When you feel you're a citizen of the world, it's always interesting to find others that operate in the same way and share your mutual experiences.
- In which way do the various expressive media (music, image, language, song) interact in the
- I believe that every medium has to have it's own space in the final result, without one of them dominating the rest. All together, they form the final image, which isn't exclusively musical, neither visual, nor theatrical, but constitutes a new homogeneous composition. The outcome is enriched and the idea becomes more powerful. Image, you see, can lead the audience in a place that music can't and vice-versa.
-Do you believe that art has the power to influence the public opinion as far as political and social issues are concerned?
- I believe that the combination of image, music and language is one of the most powerful communication means we possess. The advertisement industry has recognized this a long time ago. I think that through this medium, art can actually influence the public towards a certain direction. Our performance has no propagandistic nature. The audience will, above all, watch an artistic effort full of comical elements. If, of course, leaving the theater they will feel a bit more concerned about life and the environment, it will be a gain for us all.
WITH A CELLO AND A SYNTHESIZER
Thrilled by Nikki Lindt's work and the idea of presenting a multimedia opera in Amsterdam, "a city particularly open to new ideas", Sofia Serghi immediately accepted the proposal to collaborate with Dj Radion for the music of The Noah's - a new experience she described to us with great enthusiasm.
- Mrs. Serghi, can you describe the way you developed the music of this performance?
- I wrote the music with a 2.500 X synthesizer. The only acoustic organ I used was a cello. This composed world of sound accompanies the phonetic parts of the two singers, the baritone and the soprano. Furthermore, time after time, the Dj interposes with his sounds.
- Which where the factors that contributed towards the choice of Elly Marina Casdas and Manolis
- First of all I needed a woman and a man to interpret the texts of Noah and his wife. They're
both my friends and although we had no previous collaboration, I appreciate and trust them
- Was this the first time that you composed music for a performance of this kind? .
- Yes, it actually is. I have, of course, composed phonetic music for the theater and the musical
theater in the past. I confess that the composition of the music for The Noah's was a very
pleasant experience. I actually intend to continue, composing a new opera until 2004.
- Will it have the form of a traditional opera?
- Not exactly. I'm searching for a modern interpretation of opera, where technology will be a catalyst. With the assistance of computer technology, of video, DVD etc., I would like to produce a real time opera the audience could watch from their home. The screen is something that I find very appealing- this interest was one of the reasons I participated in the production of The Noah's. Certainly, my future productions will deal with the relationship between music and television, cinema and generally with the multi-dimensional levels of the action images can create.
* The opera "The Noah's" will be presented in Pompoen Theater, Spuistraat 2,
Amsterdam from February 6 to 10 and 13 to 17