Prince Igor – Synopsis

When my daughter was an infant, I read that babies love classical music. How thrilling! Right off the bat, I could be a superior parent. I had lots of classical music – thanks to a great record store with a staff that bordered on maniacally passionate.

So I played classical cds for my new baby. And while she seemed to like them, there was something… wrong. The music was terrific, but it just didn’t seem quite as advertized. Perhaps the people on the baby websites weren’t playing the same type of classical music we were. Perhaps they didn’t have Russsian Armies crashing through frozen lakes, and czars losing their minds.

I don’t know why they didn’t. It’s great music.

I purchased much of this music during my Depressing Opera phase. While anything that ended in certain death was fair game, I was especially fond of the Russian doom and gloom aesthetic.

One opera that worked okay in the nursery was Prince Igor.

I figured Prince Igor would be good for babies because it has Prince in the title, which practically makes it a children’s story. Yes, there’s some murderous rampaging, but not nearly as much as some of the others. And none of the people you like die at the end – probably because Borodin died before finishing it (and them).

It also has some really lovely music. Here’s what happens:

Prince Igor sets off to battle the Khans, leaving his wife in the care of her brother, who is a jerk. As in most opera stories, the brother-in-law has his sights on the throne. Think Prince John in Robin Hood.

While the Polovtsians are dancing (in a number Borodin totally ripped off from Kismet), one maiden is pining for her true love, Vladimir – Igor’s son. She has her father’s blessings to marry him, but she knows Prince Igor won’t permit it, since her dad is a Khan. Her dad has kind of a man crush on Igor, so he’s fine with it. He’s also fine with letting Igor go if he promises to be friends. Did I mention that Igor’s army was defeated? Igor and Vladimir are captives, which gives Vladimir’s girlfriend a chance to sing about him.

Igor and Vladimir have a chance to escape, but Vladimir chooses to stay. Igor’s escape only solidifies Khan’s man crush – which won’t stop Igor from planning another siege on Monday. The whole third act is negotiable, by the way, since Borodin hadn’t written it before he died. But how Igor goes from being defeated to showing up back at home as if nothing happened is a leap even opera can’t make.

So he goes home to Yaraslavna, who is pining for him. And who can blame her? Her stupid brother heard that Igor was defeated and is making a pitch for the throne. If he gets it, someone’s going to a convent so she’ll stop busting him for abducting maidens.

And at the end, the chorus sings about how God heard their prayers. This right here is just about everything I love about Russian opera. All operas should have bells.

See? No one crashes through the ice or anything. Kids’ stuff.

 

 

 

Eugene Onegin – Synopsis

With the exception of the part where her sister’s suitor gets snuffed, Eugene Onegin (pronounced You-JEEN Own-YAY-gan) is every girl’s fantasy break-up story. I’m not saying Tchaikovsky plagiarized a school girl’s diary, I’m saying that he wrote a school girl’s diary. Repeatedly.

And he did it beautifully.

Tatyana and her sister Olga are hanging out at their mom’s house because it’s St. Petersburg in the 1820s and that’s what girls did. Olga’s suitor, the poet Lenski, shows up, bringing his friend Onegin with him. Because his name is on the playbill and he is a baritone, Onegin is likely to break someone’s heart or kill someone. Maybe both.

Tatyana does indeed fall in love with Onegin and stays up all night writing him a love letter, which is the 1820s St. Petersburg equivalent of drunk dialing. This is probably the most famous aria in the opera – along with poor, doomed Lenski. But we’ll get to that.

Onegin shows up and says “thank you, but no thank you.” The countryside bores him, he’s not the marrying type, blah blah blah. He’s something of a prat about it. He also tells Tatyana to be more careful in the future, since not all men will be as gloriously honorable as he is. We hate him instantly.

Tatyana is crushed. In a perfect world, Tatyana would never have to see him again – but this is opera and his name is still on the playbill, so he shows up in Act II at a party celebrating Tatyana’s name day, (February 23, if the internet is to be trusted.)

He dances with Tatyana but notices the nosey neighbors gossiping about them and is annoyed. He’s also annoyed with Lenski for making him come to the stupid party in the first place. So he does what any best friend would do, and starts to flirt with Olga. Lenski loses his marbles and challenges Onegin to a duel.

Once they meet for the duel, they realize they’re really awfully good friends and dueling would be silly – but honor is honor and a challenge is a challenge and in three shakes of a little lamb’s tail, Eugene has finished off his friend Lenski – Olga’s fiance. And a tenor, obviously.

We’re guessing Onegin doesn’t return to the party.

He is, however, very busy during intermission and by the time we get to Act III, he has looked for happiness and the meaning of life (or a really great party) all over Europe and has come up empty. He’s now at a party in the Gremin Palace, still feeling rather badly about offing his friend Lenski. At least the party wouldn’t be quite as dull if he hadn’t killed off his wingman.

Suddenly, across a crowded (and dare I say completely overdone but still quite lovely) ballroom, Onegin spots Tatyana. And she looks…. fabulous. It turns out she has married Onegin’s cousin, the prince. Gremin is completely besotted with Tatjana. We like him immediately. Here, he’ll tell you all about it.

Prince Gremin introduces Onegin to Tatjana, who is completely gracious and then remembers she has left the crème brulaying and politely excuses herself to breath into a paper bag with her head between her knees.

He goes home and does a little drunk dialing of his own, because the next morning we find Tatyana holding a love letter from Onegin. She is only on about page 4 when he rushes in, throwing himself at her feet. She is, understandably, rattled – but keeps it together and reminds him that he had his chance and that window of opportunity has officially closed. Also, please stop weeping on the bearskin rug.

He leaves, and the entire audience rises to high-five Tatyana.

And scene.

The Metropolitan Opera, Live in HD – 2012/13 season overview

People are always asking me which of the upcoming Met Opera HD broadcasts they should go to, and what they’re all about. So I thought it would be helpful to list the upcoming operas with extraordinarily helpful information about each.

Check the Met’s website before setting your heart on anything. Opera’s fickle.

Live in HD – The Metropolitan Opera’s 2012/13 Season:

Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore–New Production
October 13, 2012
Nemorino buys a potion from a quack doctor, thinking that when he drinks it he will be able to talk to Adina and she will fall in love with him. He ends up drunk, but lucky for him, he’s adorable when drunk. It all works out. The end.
Verdi’s Otello
October 27, 2012
In which Otello seems smart but gets played like a … like a… like a tenor in a Shakespearean opera by Verdi. (You don’t get more played than that.)
Adès’s The Tempest—Met Premiere
November 10, 2012
Simon Keenlyside is Prospero and is dreamy. The end. (Okay yes, it is also directed by Robert LePage, who did the Met’s new Ring cycle. Let’s face it, if Robert LePage directed The True Story of Mary and Her Little Lamb, I’d go see it.)
Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito
December 1, 2012
In which Titus’ fiancee and his friend plot to kill him. Titus, in turn, clemenzas them. It’s gripping.
Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera—New Production
December 8, 2012
If you laugh off a fortune-teller’s prophesy of your own doom, stay away from masked balls. Especially if you find yourself in an opera.
Verdi’s Aida
December 15, 2012
Princess wars! An Ethiopian princess and an Egyptian princess duke it out over our hero Radamès. One of them wins – if by “wins” you mean “dies.”
Berlioz’s Les Troyens
January 5, 2013
With approximately 52k square feet of stage (if you count the side and rear stages), the Met could probably stage the actual Trojan War. This is close.
Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda—Met Premiere
January 19, 2013
Mary Queen of Scots is doomed, doomed, doomed, but she gets to spend her final hours in an opera directed by David McVicar so at least she’ll go out in style.
Verdi’s Rigoletto– New Production
February 16, 2013
It’s like the regular Rigoletto, but set in Las Vegas circa 1960.
Wagner’s Parsifal–New Production
March 2, 2013
It wouldn’t be a Wagnerian opera without Knights of the Holy Grail, a biblical spear, a bunch of curses, a magical villain, some prophesies and a dashing hero.
Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini
March 16, 2013, 12 pm ET
It’s inspired by Dante’s Inferno, which is funny since most of my friends equate opera with one of the rings of hell.
Handel’s Giulio Cesare—New Production
April 27, 2013
Handel has a thing for casting the roles of people like Julius Caesar and Nero as countertenors. Hilarious. Have you ever heard a countertenor? You’ll fall off your chair the first time he opens his mouth.

 

The First Emperor – synopsis

The First Emperor is about the guy with the terracotta army. You know the one. Here’s what happens in the opera by Tan Dun.*

The first emperor of unified China wants a leitmotif for the empire so he asks John Williams to write the Imperial March. Since John Williams wasn’t born yet (it was 221 BC), the Emperor (Qin Shi Huang) tells him to write it anyway – and then resorts to his second choice, Gao Jianli.

Gao Jianli was a childhood friend – they did jail time together, were both marked as slaves and were raised by the same mother. The Emperor remembers that Jianli played a mean zheng and, referring to him as his Shadow, thinks he’s just the guy for the job. Surely they’ll be on the same page. Jianli will write some great new music to replace the old dusty favorites. All they have to do is conquer Jianli’s homeland – which was on their To Do list anyway – and bring back Jianli. The Emperor sends his general off to do the conquering – offering the princess to him when he returns.

He does return with Jianli, but there’s a catch: The Emperor’s armies burned everything and killed everyone in the process (including trampling Jianli’s mother). He’s not going to write the anthem. He’d rather die.

He tries to starve himself, but the Princess has a thing for musicians,** and seduces him into eating and… other things. In the course of the other things, she regains the use of her legs (she had been lame since a fall off her father’s horse). Her father is thrilled until he discovers the cause of the miracle cure. And then he wants to kill Jianli – except he still wants Jianli to finish the anthem, so he stalls. Also he considers him a brother and blah, blah, blah (he wants the anthem).

The General, who is slated to marry the princess, doesn’t even like anthems.

Mom and Dad try to talk the princess into marrying the General, but she refuses. She thinks it’s horrible and selfish of her father to put an empire first. She broods and puts posters of Jianli up on her bedroom walls. She may or may not also take to wearing black, painting her nails purple, and cutting herself. All the while, slaves continue to build the Great Wall of China as if nothing else is going on.

The Emperor, figuring a way out of all his promises, asks Jianli to be patient and allow the princess to marry the general. After they’re married, he’ll send the general off to battle, he’ll be killed, and Jianli will join the court. And by the way, how’s that anthem coming?

It all goes according to plan and if you want to not read the spoiler and surprise ending, you should stop reading here.

No really, stop.

It does not go at all according to plan. They gather to hear the new anthem at the inauguration, but before the anthem is sung, news comes that the princess refused to enter the bridal chamber and the general strangled her.

The princess comes back from the grave long enough to clarify that she killed herself. And then the news comes that the general also killed himself. He comes back from the grave long enough to clarify that he did not kill himself, he was poisoned by Jianli. Also, beware the dwarf and don’t let your daughter date musicians. Seriously, musicians are bad news and the Emperor should watch his back because Jianli is still in a twist about the “you trampled my mother” thing.

Jianli arrives and the Emperor turns to him for comfort in this dark hour, which is a mistake because it turns out the ghost general is right. Jianli, in a fit of wrath and perhaps grief (at this point we’ve started to wonder if the whole thing was just a fancy way to die since that’s what he wanted in scene 2 anyway), bites off his own tongue and gives it to the Emperor, who skewers him.

Once everyone who’s slated to die has died, the chorus dutifully sings the new anthem which does not bear as much resemblance to Darth Vader’s theme as it does the song the slaves sang earlier on. As the Emperor himself points out, this is Jianli’s revenge. The end.

*I have a crush on Tan Dun.

**When the princess told her father she wanted a musician, there was an audible groan from my roomful of friends, all of whom are (or are married to, or work with) musicians. We totally could have told her so.***

*** but I still have a crush on Tan Dun.

Bluebeard’s Castle – synopsis

Bluebeard’s Castle – there but for the grace of a background check.

This opera is by Bartok, which means that even if it were about unicorns, butterflies and cupcakes, it would still be disturbing.

In Bluebeard’s Castle, Judith leaves her home and fiance and comes to live with Lord Bluebeard. Given Bluebeard’s reference to “your family’s probably putting up flyers with your picture on it” (I don’t speak Hungarian, so that might not be an exact translation), it was not an approved union.

But she’s crazy about him. So crazy, in fact, that she misses the 140 or so red flags, thereby missing her chance to escape while the escaping’s good.

And he does wave red flags, starting with asking her several times if she’s sure she doesn’t want to leave. Under his psychotic exterior, he wants to be good. He really does. Sort of.

Judith notes that it is very dark in the castle and, despite Bluebeard’s insistence that that’s how he rolls and if she wants a castle with roses she should hit Disney, she asks for the key to unlock the seven doors and shed some light on the subject. It’s just like any new couple – she wants to find out what he has hidden in the dark recesses of his soul/castle. He tells her she shouldn’t go there, she says “but I love you, how could this possibly go wrong?” and then we find out how wrong it can possibly go.

She opens the first door and finds a torture chamber.

If we are honest, we all have a torture chamber lurking somewhere. It’s just that his has hot coals and a rack. And it looks like it gets used quite a lot. She is understandably shaken by the sight but pulls herself together and  says “It’s okay, I’m good. Next key.”

Note: in live performances it is not appreciated when you yell at Judith from the audience.

The next room is the armory, which would have been distressing if Judith were un-deluded enough to have hoped for a rescue party. “My, what pointy daggers you have, Bluebeard.”

Bluebeard is starting to enjoy this therapy session and offers Judith the next three keys, thinking five doors should keep her happy.

The third door is his treasury, which Bluebeard proudly announces now belongs to Judith, shiny crowns and all. Judith is delighted until she realizes there’s blood on the crown. So she does what any normal person does when she realizes she’s looking at something unpleasant – she looks somewhere else.

The fourth door opens to Bluebeard’s garden. Judith really should stop here, since it’s letting in the light and that was the whole point of this exercise. But the light is not dawning in Judith’s pretty little head, and although the blood on the flowers throws her for a loop, she presses on.

The fifth door opens to Bluebeard’s kingdom. It goes on and on. But again, the river is tinged with blood and Judith goes from “I love you, how could this possibly go wrong” to “I love you but is that lipstick on your collar and why don’t you love me and who’s that on the phone and I AM NOT THE FIRST WOMAN YOU’VE LOVED, AM I?”

Which is all fairly normal for a new relationship (if you discount the torture and the blood and the fact that the castle occasionally moans and that Bluebeard smiles at all the wrong times).

Bluebeard begs her to stop asking questions and kiss him. She does. And then she asks more questions. And then she kisses him. And then she loses it completely and demands the sixth key.

Behind the sixth door is a silvery pool. “What made this silvery pool?” Judith asks.

Weeping, says Bluebeard.

In this scene, his answer to everything is “weeping.” Why is the sky blue? What’s for lunch? Why did the chicken cross the road?

Weeping. Weeping. Weeping.

So Judith goes from losing it to really, really losing it, but not in the “I AM GOING TO DIE” way like she should, but in the “you are having an affair/are hung up on your mother/don’t think I’m pretty” way. Which is not helpful. She wants to face her competition and see what she’s up against, so she opens the seventh door and meets his previous wives. Sort of.

Bluebeard’s Castle is based on a fairy tale.The modern tendency with fairy tales is to clean them up, give them a happy ending and feed them to our children. Which teaches children nothing. This, on the other hand, teaches young women to be strong within themselves, listen to their inner voices, do a thorough reference check and always, always heed the person in the audience screaming “run, you moron.

Radio Betty Episode 19 – Satyagraha

The playlist:

  • Castle In Spain; Buster Poindexter And The Banshees Of Blue; Vintage Disney Films
  • Bluebeard’s Castle, Sz. 48 (Op.11) – Door 6. “Csendes fehér tavat látok”; Julia Varady
  • Kuru Field Of Justice from Satyagraha;  Douglas Perry; The Trilogy
  • Tolstoy Farm from Satyagraha;Douglas Perry; The Trilogy
  • Protest from Satyagraha; Douglas Perry;The Trilogy
  • Evening Song from Satyagraha; Douglas Perry;The Trilogy
  • Fashion; David Bowie; Changesbowie
  • Doctor Atomic: Batter my heart; Gerald Finley; Great Operatic Arias (Sung In English), Vol. 22
  • Rodelinda / Act 3 – Mio caro bene!; Renée Fleming; Handel
  • Phone Message; Patty Larkin; Watch the Sky

We talked about Fashion Designers at the Opera by Helena Matheopoulos, and the New York City Opera’s bajillion dollar budget cuts.

And then we pulled some ringtones from Anna Bolena, Peony Palace, Maria Padilla,Tosca,  The Magic Flute and Pagliacci. All the cool kids will be using them.

(Click here if you missed it and have an hour to blow)

Béatrice et Bénédict relationship status: it’s complicated (a synopsis)

You know those friends who are so constantly at each other that you and all your other friends wish they’d just do it and get it over with?

Berlioz wrote an opera about them.

While technically written by Berlioz, the libretto is lifted from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Berlioz liked Shakespeare. In fact, to prove his fan-boy-ness, Berlioz put a Donkey character into this opera. But I digress.

Béatrice et Bénédict is the story of…. Beatrice and Benedict. They hate each other – as is evidenced by their pithy repartee. When the opera opens, Benedict and his friend Claudio are on the way home from a victorious battle, in the company of Don Pedro. Claudio is engaged to Héro, the governor’s daughter (and Beatrice’s cousin). Claudio and Hero are the boring but reliable friends. Everyone needs boring and reliable friends.

The boring and reliable Claudio, along with his boss (Don Pedro) and his future father-in-law, decide it’s time to force a Beatrice-Benedict hookup. Knowing that Benedict is an idiot, they wait until they notice him hiding in the hydrangeas (do they have hydrangeas in Sicily?) and then talk very loudly about how they overheard Beatrice saying that she’s thinking of offing herself because of her love for Benedict.

Benedict digs this.

Hero and her wing girl Ursule do the same to Beatrice. As hoped, both Beatrice and Benedict go all twirly-eyed and can think of nothing but how in love they are.

The entire point of this opera seems to make one look back at her 20s and be embarrassed all over again.

This could be accomplished in under an hour except we need to make room for the donkey. To celebrate the wedding, Somarone (which means “Great Donkey”) has written a song and is rehearsing a local chorus. They are horrible, but not as horrible as the song. When someone points out that the song is horrible, Somarone goes into great musicological detail about how brilliant it is, proving himself a Giant Ass.

Hero’s father throws a party to celebrate the wedding. Everyone gets drunk. Beatrice and Benedict go mooning about. The caterers go romp in the bushes. It is pretty much like every wedding, ever.

And then when the actual wedding takes place, there are two wedding contracts and, not wanting to waste paper, Benedict and Beatrice decide they should just go ahead and do it already.

The end.

New Operas – Radio Betty Episode 17

In Episode 17 we talked about the abundance of new operas, including Guerilla Opera’s world premiere of “Loose, Wet, Perforated.” I went to see “Heart of a Dog” last winter and can affirm that you will never see anything like a Guerilla Opera production. For ticket info, go to guerillaopera.com.

We also talked about Kickstarter and all the operas in varying states of production. If you haven’t been to kickstarter.com yet, set aside a few days with no distractions and plenty of food and water. The projects people have come up with are unbelievable. I searched for “opera” and found 134 projects. Some were already funded and some had not met their goal (thankfully, in a few cases). Many are still collecting donations, including “Beautiful Creatures,” the first opera that caught my eye. According to the Kickstarter overview it “explores the loss of ideals and how we reconcile our best hopes with sobering realities.”

I was pulled in by the music during the video introduction, and then realized I recognized one of the faces: playwright Dominic Orlando. I never seem to discover someone is a librettist until long after I’ve spent a week hanging out down the hall from him. I worked on the publicity for Dominic’s play Danny Casolaro Died for You, which premiered last fall (what do you mean you haven’t heard of it?? You have now). I love his storytelling and pretty much think he’s the cat’s pajamas. In fact, if I didn’t like opera, this might push me over the edge.

The synopsis: Eileen, an inveterate executive of an environmental organization, struggles to find the reins of her mission in the green movement with all its recent changes. Her fantasies and anxieties play out during an afterparty at a green conference where the competing strategies and motivations of 3 other characters within the movement (a celebrity, an eco-terrorist, a green-washed corporate) threaten to take them all down.

After the guests have arrived Cori (the terrorist) tells us that she’s wearing a bomb, and intends to kill the tabloid beauty (Hank) to demonstrate the destruction of a “beautiful creature” she believes the world won’t ignore. Stan and Eileen get into a row about their old relationship: he accuses her of becoming a shameless self-promoter posing as a green activist. She chastizes his corporate greenwash activities for clean coal. Cori confronts Hank to see if he might have any real integrity about the environment, but remains unconvinced by his response. International activists stroke Hank’s ego in order to leverage his celebrity, but Stan makes an ugly scene, telling them he’s just an actor posing as a do-gooder. Cori finally gets herself psyched up to do the deed even while she’s wishing someone might stop her. The others struggle in a build-up to a tense moment where the bomb might go off.

Stage|Time Collaborative has until October 2 to reach their goal. Donate here if you can: BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.

From there we gave an overview/tutorial on The Rake’s Progress. It seemed appropriate.

And for the Ripped from the Headlines portion of our program, we talked about Eva-Maria Westbroek and her roles as Anna Nicole and Sieglinde. Interestingly, if you do a google search for images of Eva-Maria, there are about 80 billion of her as Anna Nicole and 12 as Sieglinde.

Read the article in The Independent.

In addition to segments of the operas, we played “Boycott Immorality” from Chocolat and “Anna Nicole Smith’s Baby” by Spring Forth. We tried to fit in Bananarama’s “Venus” at the end of The Rake’s Progress, but it was too jarring a transition even for us.

Next time.

Radio Betty – Mother’s Day Edition

If you want to brush up on your parenting skills, especially what not to do, consult these operas. Today’s episode was all about moms – mostly awful ones but with a few we love thrown in for good measure. I also played a couple for my kids because they needed some reassurance after hearing all these tales and a stiff drink is not yet an option.

Here’s what we played:

Baby Mine, Bonnie Raitt & Was (Not Was)
Il Trovatore; Condotta all’era in ceppi; Giuseppe Di Stefano/Fedora Barbieri/Orchestra Del Teatro Alla Scala, Milano/Herbert Von Karajan
Iphigénie en Tauride; Act 4 – Scene 7. Air. “Dans cet objet touchant”; Simon Keenlyside Gluck
Agrippina; Act 3. Chorus: Lieto il Tebro increspi l’onda;  Capella Savaria, Nicholas McGegan Handel
Whip-Smart; Liz Phair
Cherubini: Medea: Son vane qui minacce
Kate Bush; Mother Stands For Comfort (get it? oh I slay me)
Hérodiade; Scene III: “Venge-moi d’une supreme offense”; San Francisco Opera
Die walkure; The Ride of the Valkyries; London Symphony Orchestra George Richter
Weezer; Butterfly; Pinkerton
The Magic Flute – Der Hölle Rache – Queen of the Night’s Aria, Act 2 ; Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Suor Angellica; Ave Maria, piena d grazia; Puccini -Sutherland
Suor Angellica; Senza mamma, o bimbo, tu sei morto; Puccini-Sutherland
Suor Angellica; Ah, son dannata! Puccini S-Sutherland
Lenny Kravitz; Butterfly;  Mama Said

Elo Experienced

We don’t do ballet reviews here at Opera Betty because that would make us ballet bettys, which we’re not. However, we can’t get Boston Ballet’s Elo Experience out of our heads.

Boston Ballet this season has been reminding me of the Red Sox the year they broke the curse and won the World Series. For those of you unfamiliar with the Red Sox Curse, in 1920 the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. As he left town, Babe Ruth said “next season you will prick your finger on a spindle and DIE!” but the Red Sox’ fairy god mother had not yet given the Red Sox their birthday wish and said “you will not die, but you’ll lose for almost a hundred years and perhaps wish you were dead.”

In 2004, they won the World Series and there was much rejoicing.

That season, they were especially fun to watch because they a) didn’t lose and b) were just plain fun to watch. They spoke their own language – like “cowboy up” and “Manny being Manny.” They had goofy little inside jokes and pranks.

I don’t know if Boston Ballet is prone to inside jokes and pranks, but I do think they speak their own language. Characteristic turns of phrase and figures of speech that identify each dancer are the language of a company. This is what Jorma Elo translated into dance in Elo Experience.

Which doesn’t mean I understood what they were saying. Some of these pieces are like poetry – where you read it and feel it but can’t explain what it’s about. There were times when I felt like I was dreaming. There were moments of deja vu where I struggled between recalling previous Elo choreography and wondering if he had tapped into something archetypal. If it’s possible for something visual to hit emotional pressure points, Elo does it.

While the story ballets are classic favorites and heaps of fun to watch, the company is brilliant with more lyrical, contemporary choreography. They dance in silence with sharp stops and undulating gestures. They are subtle and ephemeral. They are technically the tightest and most inspired I’ve seen in years.

At opening night of Elo Experience, there were two things we hadn’t seen before.

1) With intermission house lights still on and no warning, the dancers appeared on stage, nonchalant as anything. It was a surreal peek at the underpinnings.

2) After the final bows were taken we heard a cheer behind the curtain – presumably the company applauding their resident choreographer.

And rightly so. He speaks their language.