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Xenia (Part II) – Pop-Up Opera (Temple Bar) – Review

Xenia (Part II) – Pop-Up Opera (Temple Bar) – Review by Frank L.

Composed by Nick Roth

Run now finished – Date – 18 May 2019

Part I of Xenia was performed in the Bealtaine Festival last year and Part II took place in Temple Bar in the 2019 Festival. It was described as ‘a pop-up opera’. The Composer Roth, a saxophonist and a key board player, together with Cora Venus Lunny, a violinist, provided the music.

The production started in Crampton Court, that sadly neglected lane that connects Dame Street with Essex Street East, whose main purpose is to provide an unobtrusive entrance to the upper tiers of the Olympia Theatre. Once the audience was gathered in the space and after a short verbal introduction, the assembled group walked to Temple Bar Studios. Out of sight, high up in the building, the voices of Dominica Williams and Olesya Zdorosvetska could be heard. From there to Curved Street where the Film Base Building was used for a minimalist piece of performance art. The group then assembled on the first floor of the Gallery of Photography where personal correspondence from the the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration service was sung by Williams and Zdorosvetska accompanied by the musicians. Then around the corner into the Irish Film Institute, then a halt in front of the Ark, and a visit to the Irish Photographic Archive during which diverse texts were either sung or chanted.

A length of white cloth was held aloft and a procession took place on the comparatively long walk to Fishamble Street where the first performance of Handel’s Messiah took place more than 250 years ago. From that great work by Handel an adaptation of ‘Lift Up Your Heads’ by Roth was given a jazz reinterpretation. The troupe, with the music continuing like following the Pied Piper of Hamelin, then walked along Parliament Street to Dame Street where the event terminated with tea and coffee under a temporary tent which had been erected since the departure an hour and a half earlier. There was an unplanned interval at this point as the event had proceeded faster than intended.

Xenia in its publicity is described as a ‘wildly anarchic exploration of Hospitality in answer to the festival’s “Be our Guest” theme’. However, such an approach to hospitality on a single site would be a challenge. When applied to several sites its message became difficult to discern. The entire happening was too diffuse, its message got lost in translation. So the overall effect of the ‘anarchic exploration’ was bewildering rather than enlightening.

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