Orlando Gough - A Ring A Lamp A Thing

Opera Shots - Linbury Studio, 18 June 2010

His work – A Ring, A Lamp, A Thing, with a libretto by the playwright Caryl Churchill based on the Aladdin story from One Thousand and One Nights – uses just one singer. But Gough has treated her voice electronically, using a sophisticated piece of computerised kit called the Ableton, more usually seen in the armoury of hip-hop producers than at opera houses. In rehearsal, the result was impressive. For the first few moments, the sound emanating from the lonely figure of singer Melanie Pappenheim was as might be expected: a single, meandering, angular vocal line, infused with icy melodic shivers in the upper registers and low, whispered flourishes. Then, as the diodes lit up on the computer, the voice seemed to mutate, to split in two, like a virus reproducing. Ten new melodies all sprouted off in different directions, rearing, ducking and diving around the first. Although we could still see only one mouth move, the room was magically filled with a ghost choir.

”First, the song becomes a loop,” explains Gough. “Then it is given a rhythm and becomes a riff. Finally, you create this big castle of loops that just builds and builds. And then we play it all backwards.” The result, he notes with a certain pride, is much more ambiguous and genre-busting than anything normally seen at an opera house. “It’s about as far from most people’s idea of an opera as could be,” he says. “I’m not even sure we are trying to write an opera. We’re looking to make interesting theatre with lots of singing in it.”
— Guardian
First up was Orlando Gough’s A Ring A Lamp A Thing, a tour-de-force from Melanie Pappenheim. With little more than a sofa and a handbag, she holds the stage alone for its whole half hour length. In Caryl Churchill’s fragmented libretto a visit from a genie is spliced with everyday reminiscence. The random associations are dreamlike. Pappenheim’s looped and layered vocals (mixed live, I think) disorientate further.
— Intermezzo