Length: c. 90 minutes
About this Piece
About Last Days
cereal bowl, milk, blood of christ, ghosts, magic trick, fireworks, cicadas, grass, roots, forest, rain, damp, mattress, rats, birds, stag’s head, wolf howls, bong, lighter, campfire, frozen pipes, haunted house, scaffolding, raincoat, clipboard, pen, letter, death, bottle caps, beer, fridge, amp, guitar, electricity, sirens, saws, kettles, doorbell, phone, auctioneer, timpani, party, chatter, mumbles, distortion, guitar, gun, glasses, ripped jeans, ripped shirt, broken glass, bullet, balloons, party, bottles, pop, crack, campfire, torch, ultraviolet, ghost, scarecrow, jesus, chimes, spoon, rake, packing peanuts, cardboard, brown, earth, sky, aeroplanes, smoke, campfire, chairs, opera, vinyl, piano, bass, cello, cello, viola, viola, violin, violin, violin, violin, bow, blackout, sun, weeds, green, coat, gun, guitar, glasses, cereal bowl.
Birds, kettles, and telephones sing. Blake doesn’t—whatever strange fog that makes the cast sing has also engulfed the house and everything surrounding it. Everything sings, and it can’t be helped. Blake cannot escape it. You drop a coin and it spins a melody over a washing machine. Blake mumbles. These fog-shrouded things aren’t singing accidentally, emergency sirens duet with cereal, and cicadas make dances with scythes. Housemates snore chorales in slumber. Wolves sing with church bells.
Last Days has felt like the thing I always wanted to make, a place where flecks of magic are chipped or hacked from mundanity. Where the familiar and domestic are heightened or warped. When I spoke to Matt about making this opera, I said I wanted to make an opera about taking the bins out. We didn’t quite do that but it does sort of happen. Doing your chores to the most teenage heartsore music and it feeling like something much more. —Oliver Leith
Every tale becomes a tragedy if it plays out for long enough. Every character only ever has one ending—everything else is a matter of composition. I didn’t have to make a decision about when to prescribe the end of this tale—these are the last days, after all. Last days, no different from any other days but instilled with importance and mystery, due to their proximity to death. We already know where we’re headed and the rest is composition.
Of course, there is only one ending for us all. I think about death all the time. Sometimes it consumes me—non-existence is against all the principles I live by. I think I’d like to live forever, but then I remember that the finite nature of everything around me is the source of magic in our world. The Angel of Death infuses everything with the possibility of meaning, intensifying all life, raising the stakes in the cruelest fashion. Every sip of tea I take as I write this is utterly banal, beautiful, deadly. I can’t tell if I’m growing or wilting away. Maybe simply existing in the present is the most magical of all.
Our opera feels like the continuation of a myth that still walks among us. Sure, times have changed, rock music has died a few times, but distressed sweaters line the shelves of high-end boutiques. Blake, the protagonist of our piece, is a hybrid creation, an archetypal creature that haunts contemporary Western culture. Within Blake, Kurt, or the phenomenon they represent lies an unanswerable conflict: the contradictions of individual freedom and expression. This paradox rattles around in a cage of flesh, emitting distortions and feedback. I’ve heard these strange sounds wailing as a teenager spray-paints profanities on the plastic-clad building of a burger chain; they reverberate in the arguments of passionately deluded strangers online. It sounds like a voice saying, “Is it okay to want more? Is it okay to want to feel?” I know this conflict too and it feels like the contemporary.
Every tale becomes a tragedy if it plays out for long enough. Death itself is not the ultimate tragedy; there are things far worse that can occur posthumously. Nothing in our society is unassimilable, least of all death. Death’s intensification of life seduces us, daring us to look closer. It’s only human to want to see what the edge of the cliff looks like. Every generation creates its own doomed icons, pathetic symbols who take a step too far. Maybe it’s heroic? At best we can live vicariously through others, cheering on their acts of rebellion, momentarily questioning our value systems while we gawp dressed in a sweatshop-produced Nirvana T-shirt, the crude smiley face drawn on the shirt staring right back.
We will kill Blake, live onstage for your eyes and ears. The stakes will be raised for our innocent lamb and his life intensified in all its glorious banalities. By sacrificing something innocent we might become innocent too. Don’t worry, this is art, nobody is in any danger—it’s a game. There’s probably no light at the end of the tunnel, no transcendence per se, but within this conflict—the game we call drama—I hope something beautiful might form. Some momentary potential, some exciting friction.
These are the last days for all of us, the only days.
We already know where we’re headed; the rest is composition. —Matt Copson
Blake, a successful musician, has recently escaped rehab to return home. The safety of his house is soon disrupted by a slew of unwelcome guests—an insistent delivery worker, a pair of Mormons on a mission, a chorus of scrounging friends, and the ominous figure of the property’s groundskeeper. Matters are made worse by the never-ending phone calls from his Manager and the presence of a Private Investigator and a Superfan stalking nearby. Blake responds by hiding and disassociating from his surroundings.
As the chaos around him reaches an apex, a ghostly apparition or a Magician appears before Blake, offering him a way out—in the form of a bullet. Blake is left alone—at last—with nothing to confront but himself. Realizing he is existentially trapped, he chooses to end it all, and with his death, the last days are over. —Matt Copson
Blake in the Wilderness
Wisdom of Birds
Blake Listens to Opera
Friberg and Friberg
Chorus of Things
The Magician’s Story
Trip Calls Again
The Groundskeeper Cleans the Stage
Blake in the Wilderness, Again
Trip Calls, Again, Again
P.I. in the Wilderness
The Magic Trick