When a show begins I find it difficult for me to be present. Almost, as if, I’m like entertain me, peasants! Iyov, the Hebrew word for Job, described as an opera-requiem, played four shows at HERE Arts Center. I admit I was not engaged, but then the lights turned red, and the sounds got louder, it grated my ears. Actually, not just my ears, but the two audience members in front of me also covered their ears during that loudness that resembled nails scratching on a chalkboard or the screams of the dead in the underworld? It was actually traumatic. It felt like a sonic version of triggering text. It just got louder and louder and it lasted for quite some time. I figured it would be too dramatic to run out of the theater, so I stayed and prayed it would stop. It features religious songs in Greek and Latin, interspersed with text from the book of Job. I believe this was “Credo” only because “Credo” came around later on and it had the same grating sound, but less intense. I wonder if it was because my ears had a higher tolerance for the pain by then.
Thankfully, once that ended we drifted into a journey of Job’s story, intense drumming, beatboxing, and use of the piano for many things. The singers also played with the piano, but with the strings, and they sang to it, and into it. One of the songs that struck a chord with me was Kyrie Eleison– it was comical, traditional, stunning. I was rarely sure when a song ended because many of the songs were incredibly dynamic that they sounded like entirely new songs. One of the singers had a beautiful solo while another of the singers beatboxed. Her singing reminded me of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries or Bjork. The beatboxing added a level of cool to her vocals. This might have been the same song with a hip-hop beat to it, too, which had a few of us in the audience nodding our heads up and down–as you do with hip-hop. Anytime, there’s something a bit more hip-hop, but done expertly, in something considered high brow, it brings me joy. It says we can have fun even in “high art.”
Iyov felt like an immersive experience. The live video mixing by Mariia Volkova was compelling. Aside from the text of Job that the actress Marina Celander spoke throughout, I didn’t understand what was being said, so watching the live video made me think of souls of the trapped. It was just the faces and hands of the instrumentalists, but they weren’t clear, distorted even. The images looked like TV static or mirrored images.
Marina Celander’s voice was soothing, but after Requiem Aeternam, her reading became dire and stressed–such a monumental shift from the peaceful, soothing reading from most of the show. Iyov kept me on my toes because it had so many elements to it, so many things to keep my attention, but not in a distracting way, but in a “look at those pretty colors,” or “look at the intensity in the singer’s face,” or when the performers gently tapped a cymbal just slightly over my head.
The 70 minute Ukrainian Opera was conducted and composed by Roman Grygoriv, composed by Illia Razumeiko, and directed by Vladyslav Troitskyi. Featuring singers: Mariana Holovko, Ruslan Kirsh, Andrii Koshman, Hanna Marych, Yevhen Rakhmanin, Oleksandra Turyanska; instrumentalists: Zhanna Marchinska, Andrii Nadolskyi, and Illia Razumeiko. Lighting design by Nataliya Perchyshena. Sound Engineering by Makysm Kapusta and Caley Monahon-Ward.