A funny thing happened last night at the Coliseum

A funny thing happened last night at the Coliseum


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2011

Ahead of Nico Muhly’s new opera, Two Boys, the composer appeared on a panel with the polemicist Claire Fox and the writers Will Self and myself, with Christopher Cook in the chair, to discuss whether the internet was making monsters of us all.

Two Boys

The opera, whose subject matter we were asked to avoid, deals with a child murder that may have been informed or provoked by web exposure. Will took the view, expressed in a video here, that the internet monsterizes. The rest of us, to a degree, demurred.

So far, so predictable. But what took us all by surprise was the degree to which a generalised and theoretical discussion turned quickly intimate and confessional. This was due, in part, to Nico’s lucid affirmation of his adolescent self-discovery online and, in part, through an unplanned unbuttoning by the rest of us of personal encounters with addiction, child pornography, criminal impersonation and insane abuse.


photo: Samantha West

The audience led us into multi-user dungeons, second life and something called Grinder that can wreck your dating life.

Nobody in the room escaped unenlightened or unprovoked. An intruding mouse – live, not mechanical – failed to break the atmosphere.

It was an intense evening and a remarkable example of how contemporary opera can reach far beyond the remits of a 19th century art form. It happened at Covent Garden with Anna Nicole. Now it’s ENO’s turn. Where else is this happening?

The debate will shortly go online at the ENO site.