A product of choir, choreography, poetry and lighting, Aniara: fragments of time and space tells the story of the last spaceship to leave a dying earth. Performed by the Grammy-winning new-music choir, The Crossing, the piece shines light on contemporary issues such as environmentalism and the breakdown of social order.
The performance will premiere on June 20 at Christ Church Neighbourhood House in Philadelphia, and will be live broadcasted on June 21 at 7:30 p.m. and June 22 at 3 p.m.
Aniara: fragments of time and space is based on Nobel Prize winner Harry Martinson’s iconic poem, written in 1956 and inspired by the recent events of nuclear mass destruction. The Crossing’s contemporary interpretation of the poem depicts the physical and emotional voyage of a spaceship’s passengers who are leaving a dying earth, only to veer off course and head into eternity.
“Aniara is thematically timeless and universal,” said composer Robert Maggio. “Some of the most important themes to me have to do with our relationship to our planet, with our relationship to one another on that planet, with our relationship to art and to faith; and I think those are themes that are with us from birth to death, 25 years ago, and 2,000 years ago, and 25 years ahead.”
A project of three years in the making, Aniara: fragments of time and space is a collaboration between The Crossing, Maggio and Helsinki-based theatre company Klockriketeatern.
Artistic director Dan Henriksson, leader of Klockriketeatern, created the libretto for the piece by selecting fragments from the original poem’s 103 cantos. He focused specifically on the theme of nature.
“You can read in all his writings the deep concern for nature,” Henriksson said. “He was talking about things that we now discover became true, how we are destroying the world, he was talking about that all his life.”
The performance also incorporates Antti Silvennoinen’s choreography, which strives to “elevate music with movement.” With a background in traditional Chinese theatre, Silvennoinen said the piece’s choreography is largely inspired by aspects of Taoism and martial arts.
“The choir, they are singers, they are not dancers, so instead of trying to do complicated choreography, I try to focus on sort of the physical awareness, that the body all the time relates to the space,” Silvennoinen said.
Aniara: fragments of time and space is The Crossing’s most ambitious production yet. The performance also incorporates scenic and lighting design, produced by Joonas Tikkanen. He travelled to Iceland to film its landscapes, which he used to create the visual of a dystopian nature setting. He also uses colored kinetic lights that move up and down above the performers to add to the sense of movement.
The Crossing will continue to perform the piece at the Haarlem Choral Biennale in the Netherlands in July, and the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki in September.
— Kristine Liao