Subscribe to enews

Yaron on why ‘Il Ritorno’ is personal to him…

Sometimes, as they say in the movies, ‘this one is personal’. That is how I feel about Il Ritorno.

It’s personal because the classics of antiquity have much to teach us. I came to them late, mainly through reading the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert whose writings changed my life. Once I heard the deep mythic music of antiquity I would never be free of its charge.

It’s personal because I love opera and have worked in it over the years. I have found its conservatism and poverty of imagination represent the worst sort of deadly theatre – atrophied, sclerotic and self-serving. Yet at its core, being in a room with a voice, communicating directly is deeply moving and necessary to our species.

It’s personal because Primo Levi’s account of returning from the innermost circle of hell that was Auschwitz only to land up in the vast expanse of the Russian steppe was tinged with the same crushing nostalgia, post-traumatic memory and cold hope that I heard beating at the heart of Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria. It is only through good fortune and the caprices of history that my family ended in the sun of Australia rather than the fires of that evil and it is beholden on us to tell of it.

It’s personal because for the past 17 years I have believed, naively, totally and to the embarrassment of many doubters that this genre of circus is a real artform. That it can express deep emotions and higher truths, that it can grapple with issues, exalt our spirits and touch our souls. Sadly, today it is constantly debased by the idea that it can only entertain. Like opera it is full of conventions and keepers of the ‘one true way’ who suffocate it by purporting to protect it.

So I wanted to break it all. To rebuke off those who think opera is about sets and warbling, to annoy those who believe circus is an extension of the strip club or adolescent technicolor lycra fantasy. With Quincy Grant, our exceptional musical collaborator, we fashioned a world out of Monteverdi as a tale within a tale – surrounded by Mahler, folksong and Quincy’s own compositions. With our singers we asked them to sing across style with a multitude of bodies and stagings around, over and in the middle of them. And with our acrobats we, as always, challenged them to embrace the new, invest themselves and pursue what is vital and necessary.

The world today is seething with millions who wander the globe in search of home. It is haunted by the numberless ghosts of those who died in the horrors of war and genocide. It would be absurd to imagine that what we do, in a small room in Brisbane, can really make a practical difference. But I doggedly believe that when we challenge ourselves, when we make it personal, when we try communicate difficult, inexpressible things and when we share them, raw, vulnerable and without the safety net of convention then we have continued to help a little to keep culture alive – culture which may be our only defense.

Circa is based in Meanjin (Brisbane) on the lands of the Jagera and Turrbal people. We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the many lands on which we create and perform. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Always was. Always will be.