Nicole Beutler at OPERA DAGEN in Rotterdam

8:METAMORPHOSIS at the Nieuwe Luxor.

Science fiction audio-visual installation that morphs into a dance performance with opera inserts, happening in a theatre with the audience sitting on the stage facing the auditorium is not something one sees everyday. It is Nicole Beutler’s new dance opera named 8: Metamorphosis that explores a big array of existential issues, from global warming, masculinity and humanity, to repetition and destruction.

The performance begins almost without a beginning, while the audience is moving onto the stage, as the already present, seemingly distressed drummer is beating the drums on the dark stage with only one light shining on him. An all-male cast of seven performers, together with the drummer, dressed in business suits appears on the stage. An immersive audio-visual installation starts to happen as the set-holding structure above the stage is dropped and then stopped just above the heads of the performers. A beautiful variable pattern emerges on the stage because of the lights above these set frames, which move up and down and at one point envelop the actors half way; together with the effect of music combined with the drumming lures me into a dream-like anxious, yet intrigued state.

After the oscillation of the stage set, the actors start dancing and forming various wave-like sculptures or position themselves in somewhat repetitive postures, gaining speed and momentum, resulting in almost chaotic dancing. Perhaps a parallel between ocean’s currents and bodily fluids could be drawn here, and their constant flow and relatively unmarked transformation that Nicole Beutler was interested in staging. After this initial part, the singing begins using only one song throughout the performance from Henry Purcell’s King Arthur. The song is titled the Song of the Cold Genius and ends with mesmerising ‘let me freeze again to death’. The performers all anonymously dressed in business suits end up metamorphosed into what one might consider to be things that we as humans are destroying — a bee, a forest, fellow humans. The opera reaches a climax with the stage opening up and showing the empty auditorium, with one tree in the midst of a dense fog, into which the transformed actors slowly disappear, and out of which a polar bear crawls out and dies on the stage surrounded by a thick fog.

8: Metamorphosis explores the transition space regarding ecological awareness that we are currently in, the inhuman in humans, the change accompanied by destruction and the change without it. As it is written in the brilliant booklet supporting the performance, it is encouraging us to ask brave questions and look into the future, for we must negotiate a new deal. How do we define anew the role of men in a time that calls for de-centering both of masculinity and of humanity?   Eva Tisnikar  21st May 2019