The Last Rite takes place at the beginning of the 18th century, the time of Enlightenment and colonialism, starting in a dark and cold Copenhagen, where the lamp oil has run out. The opera's four characters are inspired by Holberg comedies of that time: The Ideals, Power, Cynicism and Skepticism head north in search of whale oil, and when they fail, the Ideals have an epiphany: The Earth itself is a big whale swimming around in the universe full of oil, right there for us to take! For the Ideals, the hunt for oil is not only about light and warmth, but also about development and enlightenment. For the other characters, money and power are essential, and the moment the oil spills out of the ground, their community falls apart.
Niels Rønsholdt has written both the music and the libretto for the opera, which is performed in an unconventional setting in Østerbro Ice Skating Rink. The darkness and cold are thus not only dominant in the opera's narrative but are felt by the audience firsthand when they go from the warm summer evening into an ice-cold mausoleum exhibiting the remains of the Enlightenment's aspirations after prosperity.
"It is an abstract and tragicomic story about the exploitation of natural resources, territories and fellow human beings," Rønsholdt explains. "The starting point is the search for what we need, but in that drive lies also destruction, because we become greedy and take advantage of each other along the way. We are used to looking back on the Enlightenment as something positive, but it included the idea of growth, expansion and supremacy, the disastrous consequences of which we see today.”
The Last Rite is produced by OPE-N in collaboration with Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen and is premiered at Copenhagen Opera Festival. The performance is staged by Louise Beck and performed with soloists Katinka Fogh Vindelev, Nana Bugge Rasmussen, Richard Låås and Morten Grove Frandsen as well as performance artist Nana Franciska Schottländer and conductor James Sherlock.
Performances on 25, 26 and 27 August at 22.00 in Østerbro Ice Skating Rink, Copenhagen.
Find more information and tickets here >>