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El Inocente

Nigel Kellaway

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El Inocente


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Part of a set of excerpts from ten major works by Nigel Kellaway (1994 - 2004), assembled and edited by Kellaway and his long-time associate, video artist Peter Oldham.

El Inocente (developed in 2000 and produced in 2001) considers the heritage of Baroque humanist thought in collision with contemporary South American story-telling.

El Inocente is the result of a two year development process by The oPera Project’s impressive lineup of experienced artists, exploring contemporary theatrical spectacle in relationship to the opera of the Baroque period (1600 – 1750). Although one of its emphasis is on the musical shape of a ‘baroque’ work, it in no way endeavours to reconstruct a Baroque opera, in form or content.

The idea of ‘facade’ concerns us in this work – in which less attention is paid to a ‘story revealed’, but more to the task of ‘enactment’ as an aesthetic experience in itself. Our task is to draw attention to the discrete components that make up the performative act, eschewing the illusion of ‘reality’ or (more accurately) ‘totality’ that has been a concern of much of western theatre since the Renaissance.

Like the dramaturgy, the music collides many styles and genres as one would find in opera or feature film. It has its genesis in specific Handel operatic arias, but now the original music by Richard Vella interacts, complements, ignores or collides with Handel’s music creating a complex musical web. We are simultaneously experiencing a Baroque opera based on Handel’s music and a more contemporary approach to music theatre making.

In a certain sense, the music is similar to that found in a road movie. It is neither pastiche nor parody, but is multi-referential – placing the listener into strangely familiar contexts, enabling the work to have multiple layers for interpretation.

Other performances from Nigel Kellaway's Works 1994-2004:
This Most Wicked Body (17'50'')
The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior (4'30'')
The Berlioz: Our Vampires Ourselves (14'55'')
The Terror of Tosca (22'15'')
Tristan (11'30'')
Little George (17'20'')
Entertaining Paradise (16')
Another Night: Medea (14'05'')
The Audience and Other Psychopaths (18'40'')

More from Kellaway / The opera Project Inc - DVD & Streaming:
Nigel Kellaway in Sleepers wake! wachet auf!
The Rameau Project
Brief Synopsis

NIGEL KELLAWAY - Artistic Director of The opera Project Inc.

In a career embracing his skills as an actor, director, dancer, musician and contemporary performance maker, Nigel Kellaway's initial professional performance training was in music, majoring in piano and composition at the universities of Melbourne and Adelaide.

He was the first Australian actor to train with Tadashi Suzuki and his Suzuki Company Of Toga (1984-85) and also worked with butoh artist Min Tanaka in Tokyo. Over 35 years, he has more than seventy full length theatre, dance and music works with companies including The One Extra Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Entr'acte, Terrapin Puppet Theatre, Sidetrack Performance Group, Legs on the Wall, Ihos Contemporary Opera, the Australian Dance Theatre, Stalker, Calculated Risks Opera Productions, the Song Company, Splinters Theatre of Spectacle, Urban Theatre Projects and Stopera and for venues including Performance Space (NSW), the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (WA) and The Royal Court Theatre (UK).

He was a co-founder, in 1987, of the performance ensemble The Sydney Front (of which a large selection of the performances are available on both DVD & Streaming), with major productions including THE PORNOGRAPHY OF PERFORMANCE (1988), PHOTOCOPIES OF GOD (1989), DON JUAN (1991), FIRST AND LAST WARNING (1992) and PASSION (1993). The Sydney Front toured extensively within Australia and Europe, to the UK and Hong Kong. Solo performance works include PERFORMER (1977), GIVE ME A ROSE TO SHOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE (1986), THE NUREMBERG RECITAL (1989) and THIS MOST WICKED BODY (1994), a ten day, 240 hour performance marathon with percussionist David Montgomery, video artist Peter Oldham and restaurateur Gay Bilson, which toured to the 1998 Telstra Adelaide Festival with pianist Gerard Willems and Gay Bilson.

Over the past fifteen years a major focus of his work has been in contemporary music theatre. In 1997 he directed the Colin Bright/Amanda Stewart opera THE SINKING OF THE RAINBOW WARRIOR with the Song Company and Australysis for the Sydney Festival on Sydney Harbour, and in 2001 co-devised and directed LITTLE GEORGE, again with the Song Company. His collaborations with Canberra based Stopera have been dISTRESSING THE DIVA in 1998 and the Clérambault/Rameau derived CANTATA in 2003.

In 1997 he co-founded with Annette Tesoriero The opera Project Inc., a loose ensemble of actors, musicians and physical performers dedicated to the mission of reassessing "opera" (and its accoutrement) as a contemporary performance practice. Major works by the company have been THE BERLIOZ - our vampires ourselves (1997, toured nationally in 2001), THE TERROR OF TOSCA (1998), TRISTAN (1999), EL INOCENTE (2001), ENTERTAINING PARADISE (2002), ANOTHER NIGHT: MEDEA (2003), THE AUDIENCE AND OTHER PSYCHOPATHS (2004), SLEEPERS WAKE! WACHET AUF! (2007) and THE RAMEAU PROJECT (2009).

He served on the dance committee of the Australia Council from 1993-96 and in 1997 was awarded the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Scholarship by the NSW Ministry for the Arts. Kellaway has been a leader in the development of avant-garde and hybrid performance practices in Australia over the past three decades, and in 2004 was awarded a senior artist's Fellowship by the Theatre Board of the Australia Council to devote two years to his continuing research into theatrical, operatic and contemporary performance practices.

"El Inocente is compelling – perhaps the most refined and well developed theatre I have seen from The opera Project – and leaves the listener with nagging questions rather than dawning realisations. Why this story? Why Handel? Is this the embodiment of theatre or its dissection?… non-essentials have been discarded and trimmed to something that maintains a consistent level of theatrical interest. The narrative styles shift effectively from a quasi-newsreading style to, by turns, the fairytale, the cinematic and the mythic world of Baroque opera.

The cast of four realise this with self-effacing commitment and a finely balanced sense of theatrical pace and contrast. A satisfying aspect of The opera Project is its artistic parsimony. With simple objects – white masks, red wine, black cloth and red roses – it creates stronger artistic statements than some productions on 10 times the budget. Always, it leaves me with the same questions. Are we experiencing music theatre or analysing it? Are we creating theatrical magic or deconstructing it? Is this shamanism or anthropology? Is the truth revealed or the truth unmasked?"   Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, May 7, 2001

"A triumphant march across the glorious and decadant freeway that is Baroque opera, driven by all the perversity and determination of a South American road movie. A triumph of contemporary operatic theatre."  Jane Rankin-Reid, The Australian, June 25, 2001

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