Moscow, 2020: An old man wakes amid the filth and detritus of early 21st century consumerism. Who is he? Why is he sleeping here? What causes the fever that plagues his mind? His last day is upon him. Before the final judgement we hear his tale, told through the questions and exclamations of his past, seared into his mind as his life unwinds.
“Dog-like? Dog-like? What do you mean, dog-like?”
Rest In Peace
Rest In Peace or simply RIP is a contemporary adaptation of Anton Chekhov's ЖИЗНЬ В ВОПРОСАХ И ВОСКЛИЦАНИЯХ ("Life through questions and exclamations"), a fascinating short story cunningly constructed entirely from snippets of speech from the protagonist's life, from birth to death.
Whereas Chekhov does not specify either the protagonist's name or present situation, we have chosen to set the short story as the final moments of an old homeless man, EZDEYEV, as he reflects upon his life. These reflections - the clipped dialogue from Chekhov - gradually reveal to us how this man has arrived here.
The drama (in English) is presented in a modern re-invention of Brechtian opera-theatre: both audience and accompanying musicians are vigorously encouraged to join in by the boisterous, comic, and tragic Ezdeyev. Benjamin's music – requiring great flexibility from the singer – blends the tuneful influences of Weill and Eisler with sounds reminiscent of Shostakovich and Weinberg.
RIP is presented alongside Silent Jack in LIFE STORIES, and premiered at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, on 1st July 2015 before embarking on a tour of the north-west, taking in Preston, Halifax, and Todmorden, followed by a run of performances at London’s prestigious festival of contemporary opera: Tête-à-Tête: The Opera Festival.
“...a masterclass in opera...”
“If Harold Pinter had ever written an opera, this would surely be it”
“...beautifully written and superbly sung and acted...”
“...a joy from start to finish...”
“...a scene of rare power that is profoundly tragic and deeply credible...”
“...provocative and quite beautiful...”
“...one to see next time it tours...”
RNCM, Manchester: 1st July 2015
The Continental, Preston: 2nd July 2015
Square Chapel, Halifax: 3rd July 2015
Hippodrome, Todmorden: 4th July 2015
Tête-à-Tête: The Opera Festival, The Place, London: 21st-22nd July 2015
Salford Arts Theatre, Salford: 5th February 2016
The Civic, Barnsley: 6th February 2016
Junction, Goole: 20th February 2016
Little Theatre, Hebden Bridge: 4th March 2016
“By using these unusual techniques to tell Ezdeyev's story of inevitable and characteristically Russian tragedy, we encourage the audience to think about upon the series of life-events leading to the plight of not only this, but every homeless person”
— LIFE STORIES composer Tim Benjamin
James Fisher, bass, is studying at the RNCM with Peter Wilson funded by the D’Oyly Carte and has been very generously supported by the John Connell Award. James studied science at University College London and was a member of ENO’s OperaWorks.
Opera engagements include Schwarz Die Meistersinger final act (The Hallé and Sir Mark Elder), Pistol Falstaff (Iford Festival), Dottore La Traviata (Kuwait), Theseus A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Opéra de Baugé), Pietro Simon Boccanegra (Valladolid), Seneca The Coronation of Poppea (Rydale, Grimeborn and Lammermuir Festivals), Sarastro The Magic Flute (Opera Venture Tour), Antino Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria and Barabashkin Paradise Moscow (RNCM). Plans include Bottom A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RNCM) and Basilio The Barber of Seville (Mananan Festival).