Two men and a woman swim and sunbathe on the beach of South-Europe. Ordinary people on holiday, enveloped in the Club Med cocoon. They seduce each other, send postcards with the familiar clichés and drink cocktails till the early hours. Their hangover provides the occasion for a minor existential crisis, but the response is only polonaises and more cocktails.
In Bosch Beach, the libretto, in Dimitri Verhulst’s characteristic style, is moulded for the stage by the LOD composer Vasco Mendonça and the director Kris Verdonck, who is venturing into opera for the first time. To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch, they are taking the notion of hell on earth as their starting point, so as to view our present world through Bosch’s eyes. What does today’s hell look like? Where is today’s ‘False Paradise’, a concealed hell on earth? Sunbathing on the marvellous beach of Lampedusa while refugees are washed ashore; this would seem to come very close.
In Bosch Beach, Verhulst, Verdonck and Mendonça play with the ambiguity of this place and the questions of intolerable guilt it entails. Confrontation with the streams of refugees makes a powerful moral appeal for responsibility. Is our lifestyle only able to continue at the expense of the stability and quality of life of other continents? And if this is the case, can and should we feel responsible as individuals? And what should we do next? We fail to find an answer to these serious problems. This inability is the drama of our time. Alienating elements, three mascots, an inflatable bandstand and searing light puncture the relaxation. In Bosch Beach the false paradise of the resorts and the Bosch-like hell on earth merge seamlessly together.
THE PRESS ON BOSCH BEACH
"Dimitri Verhulst’s foul-mouthed libretto clashes oddly with the sublime vocal lines." – De Standaard
"Heineken, pussies and knockers: in Bosch Beach, Dimitri Verhulst adds some nasty vulgar words to the opera repertoire." – Knack Focus
"‘Dancing on a volcano’: that what it’s called when people ignore the threat from the outside world so as to continue with their comfortable lives undisturbed. It has always been like that, but in Bosch Beach the dilemma is stated once again quite clearly and in a way that makes the performance an extraordinary experience." – Omroep Brabant
"Kris Verdonck’s first opera is pitiless and explicit." – De Standaard
"In musical terms, Bosch Beach is at the very highest level: the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble conducted by Etienne Siebens confirms their reputation as the Netherlands’ leading performers of new music, which here takes the form of Mendonça’s dark, restrained and sometimes plaintive tone. The three actors’ voices are simply marvellous. The extremely clear and slender counter-tenor Rodrigo Ferreira, the soprano Marion Tassou’ soft and calmly sustained lines and Damien Pass’s striking yet still delicate baritone are all superb." - Frankfurter Rundschau
(c) foto's: Kurt Van der Elst