The more we read and hear about refugees, it seems we understand and relate to their experience less.
They become representations of something other-than-us, reduced to a familiar script of our worst fears. Responding to one of the greatest dramas of our time, Yuval Avital and Meitar Ensemble smuggle us across the border between our concepts of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
‘Home’ is the root of our identity, our magnetic north, our fixed point from which we orient our story, a sanctuary of protection and intimacy. Without a home, we become vulnerable, unstable, disoriented, lost. Our experience of music is also defined around ideas of home, of stability and rest, but also of movement, change and transformation. In Fuga Perpetua, a rest in one artistic layer drives movement in another, in counterpoint, interweaving constantly.
The ‘storytellers’ in Fuga Perpetua are refugees, appearing in the work through projected ‘interviews’ conducted by Avital and collaborators, where individual refugees were asked to relive before the camera significant moments and memories of their lives, both silently and in voice, following a process designed for this project by Avital with the guidance of Prof. Gerald Cupchik (University of Toronto), a specialist in emotions and aesthetic experience.
The video also includes footage specially made for the opera by Andrea Trivero, director of the ‘Pace e Futuro’ NGO, in the refugee camp of Kakuma in Kenya on its border with South Sudan, with the help of Qaabata Boru chief editor of Kakuma News Reflector. Other footage includes film taken by Meitar Ensemble together with ‘Hasimta Athletics’ – an NGO based in Tel Aviv which aims to empower refugees by meaningful athletic activity, mainly running. We are particularly grateful for the support of the video multimedia unit of the UNHCR, which provided numerous audio recordings of interviews of refugees conducted worldwide, as sound and visual recording of refugee camps, refugee boats and travels.
Some performances of Fuga Perpetua will feature local hosted refugees who will join the performance through movement, sound and gesture, developing elements first prepared in Avital’s Rivers, which was performed in September 2015 with a vocal crowd of refugees at the inauguration ceremony of the Third Paradise Centre by Michelangelo Pistoletto in Biella, Italy. Finally, the sound installation, a ‘Mobile Sound Theatre’, is devised by Yuval Avital and developed by Dr.Tychonas Michailidis (Birmingham Conservatoire). Comprising 25 mobile loudspeakers surrounding, between and underneath the audience, this gives a powerful physical presence to the spatialization of sound in which events appear, move, take on shape and character.
Fuga Perpetua by Yuval Avital is an icon-sonic Opera for an ensemble, visuals, mobile sound theater and a vocal crowd.
UK Premieres: Brighton Festival, UK 20 May 2016. Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre, UK 22 May 201.