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The Knife's "difficult" opera

Swedish duo cut through challenging Charles Darwin-inspired work

  • 04/03/2010
  • Ian Youngs
The Knife opera Tomorrow, In A Year. Photo: Claudi Thyrrestrup

Swedish innovators The Knife have been talking about the steep learning curve they had to overcome when creating an opera about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The acclaimed brother and sister duo were commissioned by Danish performance group Hotel Pro Forma to write Tomorrow, In A Year, which is being performed on stage as well as released as an album.

The Knife’s Olof Dreijer said they began by reading Darwin’s books, including On The Origin Of The Species, along with his other works and modern literature about the naturalist.

“We started by reading a lot, for the first couple of months. Lots of reading and experimentation. I would say the whole piece is a musical exercise on these books,” Olof told 6 Music news.

They then enlisted collaborators DJ Mt Sims and experimentalist Janine Rostron, who goes by the name Planningtorock, who had “really interesting ideas about how to work with vocals”.

"I really get emotionally moved by her singing but I can’t say I have got into the opera world."

Olof Dreijer

An opera singer, a pop singer and an actor perform the music on stage. Writing an opera presented challenges for Olof, who says he knew little about the artform.

“It was really difficult at first but after some months of learning how, for example, the opera singer thought and how she worked, getting her used to our way of thinking, it’s interesting stuff but very difficult I think.

“I really have learned about how to become moved by the singer. That took a couple of months to come away from seeing her as a stereotypical opera voice because it’s so different from my world.

“Now I really get emotionally moved by her singing but I can’t say I have got into the opera world.”

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