I, Object: an opera double bill

November 30, 2017

ICA London

4pm - open dress rehearsal, 6pm - pre-performance discussion panel, 8pm - performance


Conductor: Mark Biggins

Director: Rosalind Parker

Set and Costume Design: Ana-Sofia Londono and Sophie Westerlind

Soprano: Raphaela Papadakis

Tenor: Paul Curievici

Bass-Baritone: Joseph Padfield

An opera double bill presenting Michael Nyman’s minimalist The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1986) and Kate Whitley’s Unknown Position (2011).

Originally premiered in London at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1986, this new production of Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat will return to the same venue, 31 years later.

Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat is adapted by librettist Christopher Rawlence from a case study by Oliver Sacks, the renowned neurologist who died last year, concerning events of Dr P, a music professor, who has gradually lost the ability to comprehend or interpret what he sees, a neurological deficit known as ‘visual agnosia’.

Whitley’s Unknown Position was inspired by Erika Eiffel, who famously married the Eiffel Tower in a real life example of object sexuality or objectophila. In the libretto, by Emma Hogan, the woman portrayed falls in love with a chair.

Central to each opera are elegiac moments of musical insight into the unknown territory of how the characters experience life. In Dr P’s beautiful ‘River’ aria, he describes “seeing” a scene which is in fact completely within his mind, and in Unknown Position the stunning love aria subverts the normal, as the love object of the serenade is a chair.

Conducted by Mark Biggins and starring CMF Artist Raphaela Papadakis, the cast is completed by tenor Paul Curivieci and bass-baritone Joseph Padfield. The orchestra will be made up of current and existing CMF Artists.

The evening’s performance will be preceded by a panel discussion, exploring some of the reasoning behind not only the cognitive and relationship issues displayed within the libretti, but also how the music is influenced by these issues. The panel will include:

  • Ian Ritchie (chairman), curator of the Setubal Festival and The Musical Brain
  • Michael Nyman, Composer of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat
  • Chris Rawlence, librettist of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat
  • Professor Lauren Stewart, professor and co-director of the MSc in Music, Mind and Brain, Goldsmiths University, researcher into the cognitive neuroscience of music
  • Professor Jonathan Cole, Consultant in clinical neurophysiology and former colleague of Oliver Sacks

You can buy tickets for the panel discussion here


I, Object: an opera double bill

An opera double bill

Michael Nyman: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1986) 

Kate Whitley: Unknown Position (2011)




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