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introFinnish National Opera, Helsinki, Finland
30th January 2016
Indigo by Perttu Kivilaakso and Eicca Toppinen (Apocalyptica)

I am in Finnish National Opera, and in front of me, next to somewhat old-fashioned ladies, I can observe a spectator wearing aesthetically torn jeans and having long hairs that are hanging off his seat. He is quite a contrast with the rest of audience that is dressed like on a President's Ball. When rock-influenced aria ‘Governor of Paradise’ hits in, he puts hands together and starts nodding to the rhythm. Listens most of score calmly, starts to applause just a moment after the majority of people, and suddenly takes a happy selfie when artists on stage are bowing to audience. While leaving the opera hall, coincident neighbors warmly greet one of the authors, Perttu Kivilaakso from APOCALYPTICA.


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From the very beginning APOCALYPTICA was not just a famous band, but a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. Granted, metal on cellos is original, but there is more to it in APOCALYPTICA members - they are all studied at Sibelius Academy, primary conservatory of Finland, and Perttu, for good measure, has some outstanding classical music achievements behind his belt. The main constant with members of APOCALYPTICA is a permanent evolution and never-ending study of the new aspects of creativity. Since first ‘Metallica’ album, they expanded the repertoire quite a lot and have collaborated with major amount of other musicians of various kind. They also already played with classical orchestra Avanti, and made a theatrical premiere of ‘Wagner Reloaded’ album, but for the first time, maybe, ever, metal musicians got to make a real classical opera. Eight installments ran in Helsinki in January - February 2016 and were sold out.

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The opera's plot is clearly inspired by a cyberpunk classics: it's where we saw new levels of human mind opened through scary high-tech experiments, while the stage is set in a dystopian world. In near future, mega-corporation CoOpCo developed a substance that increases human's productivity by reducing sleep time to mere two hours. Almost everyone switched to this drug, but seven years later huge side effects emerged, bringing society to despair. To obtain a fix for the drug one has to continue experiments with a substance, that makes human to go deep in his subconscious. Its deepest layer is called Indigo and previously one person died trying to reach it, which caused experiments to stop. But as fix became a necessity, corporation decided to continue the trials.

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Simultaneously, the creator of the drug comes back from long exile in order to reunite with his loved one and ultimately ending up deep in the complications of new experiments. As he becomes a new test subject, he ends up in his visions, that reveal a massive surreal world. The full synopsis can be read at http://oopperabaletti.fi/en/repertoire/indigo/. The plot has lines in "real" and "surreal" realities, and stage is visually supporting this: sometimes a platform elevates above it, on top of which parallel acting takes place. Visually opera is magnificent: it is a huge theatrical production, experimental machine is over-the-top evil and scary, stage costumes are all avant-garde and the stage layout is surreal. The spacious backdrop often becomes a screen for video-projections of vast landscapes, creating an illusion of large space. There are no too unexpected turns in the plot, as access is more on the form and idea, but not on plot dynamics. Are there any APOCALYPTICA's cameos?

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Some of my friends managed to hear few musical phrases from known songs, albeit Perttu stresses in an interview that having Apo's material there would be skewing the idea from its purpose and while various considerations were in place, it was decidedly avoided. So while Kivilaakso and Toppinen made the opera, it is not using APOCALYPTICA's branding; but of course adverts heavily using Perttu and Eicca's rock-attitude portraits. The first act felt a bit slow, but second one, especially epic mass scenes, was captivating and interesting to watch. Opera's plot also do not reveal all the meanings of what one see: the logic of what is happening in the surreal world of subconscious is never explained and left for open interpretation, hinting a big and mysterious world, of which we can only have a small glimpse.

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The opera is a gigantic-scale production and unlike the rock gig cannot be repeated in random city on demand. This is a truly unique experience that likely will not be easily repeated. I should stress that it is truly great that the famous, established musicians are not just focus on "rock gig routine" but direct their forces to such outstanding and unusual projects. The opera can be watched online at http://yle.fi/aihe/tapahtuma/2016/01/30/indigo-live-webcast-finnish-national-opera-3012016 

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 9
Sound: 10
Light: 10
Total: 9 / 10

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Images courtesy of The Finnish National Opera/Ballet. Photograper: Sakari Viika


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