Helicopter opera finally takes flight

21 August 2012, 12:56 | Updated: 18 September 2014, 15:28

A string quartet playing in helicopters and a camel - Stockhausen's opera, 'Mittwoch aus Licht', has proven too complex to stage. Until now...

The first complete performance of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Light is to be premiered tomorrow night by Birmingham Opera Company. The company aim to bring opera to a wide audience, often staging performances in unpredictable venues - and this is about as unpredictable as they come.

Mittwoch is one of seven operas in a cycle, Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche (Light: the seven days of the week), but it’s the only one which has not been performed. Before his death in 2007, Stockhausen said he didn’t want his opera performance to be incomplete, but so far it has proven too complicated to stage.

More than 150 performers are taking part in the five hour production, as part of the London 2012 Festival. In the fourth part of the opera, the Helikopter-Streichquartett, four musicians will be lifted into the air in helicopters and play to the audience via video link.

The quartet have been rehearsing in helicopters during the past week, accompanied by police escorts for safety. It's the first time some of the instrumentalists have ever flown in a helicopter, let alone played while in the air.

Stephen Pidcock, a spokesman for Birmingham Opera Company, said: "It was very exciting for them. They were very brave - it's not an easy piece to play, but they've got used to playing in time with the helicopter blades."

He added: "Stockhausen laid down strict rules when he composed this - if you're going to do it at all, you've got to do it right. So we've stuck to his rules. I don't want to give too much away, but there's a camel which appears later in the opera."

The opera will be staged at the Argyle Works from 22-25 August.