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Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser is the ‘first episodic made-for-TV and online opera’. Alas, it is not so interesting as it sounds. Surely the whole point of an episodic narrative is the leave the viewer wanting more, as pretty much any soap opera demonstrates. Vireo turgidly follows a young woman’s timeslip travails over 12 filmed instalments as she reveals her obsession with female visionaries through history, moving from 17th-century witch-hunters to late 19th-century psychoanalysis to the present. The filming locations sound ambitious, including Alcatraz, and the costumed singers and modern-dress musicians share performance areas. Composed by Lisa Bielawa, the music is monotonous and, to these ears, unlovely. Most of the performers are curiously blank and the whole affair has the slightly weird feeling of watching people cavorting in fancy dress for fun. The most surreal moment involves a singer garbed as a black-and- white cow emoting while clutching on to a life-sized model of the same beast – suddenly, at a fence behind her, some Tibetan lamas pop up and appear incredibly engaged, though eventually one realises that they are not actually part of the action. (I’m not making this up.) Bizarre.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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