The Wandering, an opera by Ken Shakin

This happened a while ago at the Irsih embassy in Berlin. To record the Bloomsday festivities, Adrian was smuggled in by our man in the Flughafenstrasse and Ken Shakin. All he had to do was to put up ‘this friendly face’, which according to eye-witnesses was an Italo Svevo mask. Adrian says, that on arriving on a suitably wet day at the Irish embassy reception, having hastily prepared my passport and removed any articles that would not have survived a strip search, I was politely led in after saying I was with ‘ken’ and ‘dave’ with none of those aforementioned security systems required. I guess I’ve just got an honest face.

Part of the recordings he made was of readings of Ulysses by people wearing funny straw hats. I guess we postpone the broadcast, until we can organise a complete reading of the book done in an entire day on 48 different parts around the globe. (I imagine local non-irish fans and non-fans of Joyce’s book, reading for 30 minutes until we move with the sun up to the next reader on a different location, indeed 30 sunminutes more westward.)

We saved Ken’s opera, which is a truely captivating and touching piece of music. Normally I don’t like chamber music and any over-articulated singing by trained vocalists, but this The Wandering rocks! (no pun intended). Someone near Ken should encourage him to write and compose more opera’s.

The Wandering in Ken’s words

As stream-of-consciousness opera, the Wandering takes its libretto directly from the text of James Joyce’s Ulysses by extracting and assembling sentences and phrases into pieces of a puzzle to express the themes of the book and the opera, as Joyce did with the Odyssey, the Bible, and all the literature and language referenced to create his story of one day wandering the streets of Dublin. With the same irreverence is Ulysses transformed into a walking tone-poem on the migration of the human being through life in search of meaning. The cast is a Greek chorus of refugees from the modern and ancient world, all in need of love and shelter, each wandering the audience, performing in their own world. Together they are the Wandering Rocks, the phrase taken from the book, as is every single word of the opera, down to the title.

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