Metamorphosis at Malthouse

Sean Car

In Opera Australia’s first ever show at the Malthouse Theatre, baritone Simon Lobelson will play a man-turned-insect in Franz Kafka’s dark comedy Metamorphosis from October 25 to 27.

Like Opera Australia, this will be Simon’s first time to the Malthouse and, in playing the tragic role of Gregor, his first visit to the Merlyn Theatre will be brief!

Gregor is a broken man, exhausted by eternal work and ungrateful family. Until one morning, he awakes and is not a man at all. Rather he is an insect whom, by the end of the play, “shrivels up and dies” according to Lobelson.

While that might sound like somewhat of a giveaway, Lobelson notes that Kafka makes no secret of the plot from the very beginning of his book, which paves the way for a dry, yet funny storyline.

“In the first sentence of his book, Kafka describes Gregor’s transformation and he’s never given away as to why,” he said. “The story becomes more about the family dealing with it. In the end they can’t, so Gregor just shrivels up and dies.”

“The story ends with the cleaning lady disposing of his body and the family goes for a walk in the sun.”

Playing the role of an insect, unsurprisingly, isn’t without its challenges. Nor is performing an opera in a space as small as the Malthouse, with Opera Australia used to the much more expansive State Theatre.

However, with a storyline and musical arrangement not becoming of a big stage, Lobelson said the Merlyn Theatre, transformed into a huge house built of scaffolding, would provide the perfect scene for his character to climb, crawl and scurry.

“It’s a very three-dimensional, cinematic, draw-you-in kind of experience,” he said. “It’s essentially a chamber opera so it was wise to pick a venue that would draw out the piece’s attributes.”

“Although beautiful, it’s very difficult music but the challenge is that you’ve got to move around a lot on the floors and climb on the walls and roof. The scenery dock is very dark, grungy and dusty.”

Brian Howard’s score is percussive, inventive and courageous. Conducted by Paul Fitzsimon, 12 musicians and six singers ratchet up the horror and pathos of this work: a story of social alienation in a modern, inhuman world.

Directed by Tama Matheson and designed by Mark Thompson, Metamorphosis as opera will make for riveting, shattering and morbidly fascinating theatre.

Tickets: opera.org.au

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