Fragments From an Interspecies Opera: Acis and Galatea Rewilded,
or, a Serenata; or Pastoral Entertainment in the Age of Extinction
The moths that appear in this film were gifted by the renowned entomologist Dr Roger Key to Will Evans who is a current PhD researcher on the BioDar project at The University of Leeds. The moths were contained in four boxes acquired by Key nearly twenty years ago when the Leeds City Museum restructured its collections. Although the moths were in an undamaged condition, they did not have enough data attached to them to warrant keeping. Dr. Key’s own collection, that he made as a child, was donated to Scunthorpe Museum during the 1970s. When Dr. Key visited the museum there he found that his boyhood collection had been reduced to powder by museum beetles, booklice, clothes moths and mites. Will Evans was taught his insect identification skills by Dr. Key.
Will Evans collaborated with Redell Olsen in the making of this film by scanning the moths on the project’s newly acquired Artec 3D scanner. Filming took place under lockdown. Evans set up the insects in the lab and they were then filmed by Olsen through a digital online platform as Olsen directed Evans to move the view of the insects by moving the cursor on his screen. That the cursor remains visible in the final film offers a trace of the process and production involved, a Brechtian reminder of agency and control rather than a Hollywoodization and reification of insects long dead.
The audio that accompanies the film reimagines George Frideric Handel’s pastoral opera, Acis and Galatea with the new lyrics of an imagined inter-species opera, extracts of which are performed in collaboration with the Chorus of Opera North and bass-baritone Matthew Stiff, as a response to the current climate crisis and environmental degradation.
The new text of Handel’s air to be sung to the music of Acis and Galatea – O Ruddier Than The Cherry holds particular contemporary relevance in relation to the meetings by international leaders at Cop26 in November 2021.
Oliver Rundell and the Chorus at Opera North:
Sarah Blood, Sarah Estill, Rachel J Mosley, Victoria Sharp, Anna Barry, Cordelia Fish, Katie Walker, Warren Gillespie, David Llewellyn, Arwel Price, Graham Russell, Ivan Sharpe, Paul Gibson, Ross McInroy, Richard Mosley-Evans, Jeremy Peaker, Gordon Shaw with Martin Pickard – piano ‘radar watchers’.
Matthew Stiff – ‘bass-baritone’, David Cowan – piano