'Simple Gifts' Aaron Copland
The English National Opera presented Blur frontman Damon Albarn's latest venture, Dr Dee the opera, last night at the Coliseum. See the all pictures from this exciting collaboration
Damon Albarn was invited to co-create, with director Rufus Norris, an opera about Dr Dee, an Elizabethan astrologer, cartographer and mathematician at the court of Elizabeth I.
Dr Dee the opera follows the fall from grace of this great mathematician and astrologer. As a young man, Dee’s thirst for knowledge lead him to collect Europe’s largest library at his home in Mortlake.
Studying cartography, cryptography, astronomy and mathematics, he comes to the attention of the Elizabethan Court. Dr Dee became a key advisor to Elizabeth I (played by Melanie Pappenheim) and he's credited with providing much of the intelligence which shaped the British Empire established under her rule.
Dee became heavily involved in the court and advised Elizabeth's principle secretary and spymaster Francis Walsingham. Walsingham recruited Dee to determine the most auspicious date for Elizabeth’s coronation – a matter fraught with political implications. He consulted the stars and set the day.
Dee met and fell in love with Jane Fromond, a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I. She would go on to be his second wife. The couple had a daughter, Katherine.
Dee found himself at the heart of the Court and worked to chart the New World, constructing the foundation and framework for Elizabeth’s Golden Age.
At the zenith of his career, Dee’s brilliance has taken him to the edge of learning. In the face of human limitations, he turned to the heavens for answers.
They come in the form of the scryer or medium, Edward Kelley. Together Dee and Kelley embarked on a communication with the angels. Dee had finally found what he had been searching for.
Dee and Kelley engaged in a mammoth undertaking: to transcribe and translate the Enochian language – the original language of the angels.
But his devotion to knowledge will come at a price.
Walsingham warned him that the queen is unhappy that his growing interesting in the occult was distracted him from his duties to the court and her majesty.
After repeated warnings, Walsingham and the Court lost patience with Dee.
But he continued to ignore the warnings and drove on with his over-worldly project.
Kelley has become infatuated with Dee's wife, Jane (Clemmie Sveaas) and plots to find a way for her to become his.
Through Kelley, an angel appears to demand that Dee pay a terrible price in return for the knowledge he so desires. He must share Jane.
Dee was caught between his faith and his love. He follows his faith. Jane consented, her heart broken.
Dee’s fall from grace was total. Ostracised by those in power and universally demonised, he became embittered and ridiculed in old age.
John Dee is little known now, but during Elizabethan times he was the ultimate renaissance man and, many experts believe, is the godfather of modern science.
Albarn’s score is a mix of pop vocals with contemporary orchestral music played on 16th-century period instruments.
Damon Albarn, left, smiles as he takes the applause from the crowd following a dress rehearsal of his new opera 'Dr Dee'.
Damon Albarn hugs co-director Rufus Norris at the after party for the new opera 'Dr Dee'. Dr Dee runs until 7 July at the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera.