Dr. Dee

Last night I went to the English National Opera to see the London premiere of Damon Albarn‘s critically acclaimed modern opera Dr. Dee. 

I knew I was going to love it from the opening moments when live ravens flew over my head onto the stage. I’m a sucker for a trained raven!

I’m also a big fan of opera, both modern and classical.  Nixon in China rocks, and I’m seeing La Traviata  for the zillionth time in a few weeks.

But, being terminally unhip, I had no idea who Damon Albarn was.  It turns out he is the frontman of the UK alt-rock band Blur (?) and the creator of the animated pop-rockers Gorillaz. (??)  Okay, I’m still terminally unhip.

The real reason I went to see the opera was because I really like Dr. John Dee.  Actually, “obsessed” is more accurate. I even have a small tattoo of the Divine Monad on my wrist… (See glyph on opera poster above.)

No one can say I don’t own my crazy.

Who is Dr. John Dee, you say?  Only one of the most fascinating figures of the Elizabethan era!  He was a trusted adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, as well as an astronomer, mathematician, navigator, alchemist, spy and celestial necromancer.

Dee was also a magus and a mystic who attempted to talk to angels. Unfortunately, the Good Doctor fell in with an occultist of dubious reputation, Edward Kelley, who convinced Dee that the angels wanted them to swap wives.

Dee reluctantly agreed, and bad fortune followed. The very stuff of which great operas are made!

Albarn’s opera turns Dee’s life into a variation on the Faust legend, with Dee entering a doomed agreement with a demonic Kelley. It really works!

The music is more English folk music than rock, surprisingly.  The orchestra plays authentic 16th century instruments, with spoken narration and lead vocals from Albarn, who is quite good.

The opera ends with more ravens.  Cool!

If you have a chance, go see it.  It’s playing for another few weeks in London, and I’m sure it will turn up in other cities as well!

10 thoughts on “Dr. Dee

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Damon Albarn is incredibly famous here… Blur were huge in the nineties, constantly on TV, radio etc. He featured on a lot of teenage girls’ bedroom walls, including mine! The opera sounds great, I like the sound of wife-swapping Dr Dee.

    • He’s probably hugely famous here too… I’ve been known to live under my own little rock!! 🙂

      He was very dreamy in the opera. It really was spectacular, in the truest sense of the word. 🙂

  2. katiepede says:

    One of their most famous songs….. and one of my favourite ‘dance around the house when nobody is looking’ songs 🙂 I am so glad you are having a great time 🙂 xx

  3. bigsmileu1 says:

    Sounds like you are having a fantastic time. I have heard Blur. Whoo-hoo. Enjoy your adventure! 🙂

  4. It sounds like you managed to fit a lot into your visit to London! Have you read Phil Rickman’s book about Dr Dee – ‘Bones of Avalon’? You might find it interesting, and looking at a certain web-based bookseller, he has another one coming soon. I can recommend Phil Rickman as an author if you like things slightly mystical, especially his Merrily Watkins series.

  5. Food Stories says:

    Sounds fun 🙂

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