Big Curtains, Big Drama: Some Stories About Street Operas and Other Concerns


Joe Namy, Libretto-o-o: Curtain Design In The Bright Sunshine Heavy With Love. Installation view, Sharjah Biennial 13.

This radio essay features stories from a composer, a choreographer, an artist, a singer-turned-writer, a poet, and a historian of sorts.  We'll listen to anti-operas, new wave operas, communist kids’ operas, the-most-Verdi-of-Verdi's operas, operas about crooked presidents, and operas on fire (all about desire and annihilation).

Although the stories each inhabit a different world of their own, they all come out of the same galaxy—a conversation around the very fabric of opera. An earlier version of this radio essay was initially put together as part of an installation titled Libretto-o-o: Curtain Design In The Bright Sunshine Heavy With Love for Sharjah Biennial 13, looking at the history and resonance of opera in peculiar places – such as in the Middle East – and the significance of the opera house, their songs, the scene, this construct.


1. "17th November 2016" by Malak Helmy, 2017
2.  "Hymnem" by Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1969*
3. "Ritorna Vincitor" from Aida by Guiseppe Verdi (sung by Maria Callas), 1951*
4. "Proposal for a Dance Choreography to be Performed at the Royal Opera House" by Clare Davies,* 2017
5. "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys, 2012*
6. "Press Gang" by Ewan Maccoll, 1966
7. "Press Gang recording" by Francis McKee, 2017
8. "Song for the British Working Class" by Cornelius Cardew, 1979*
9. "Curtain Design for Victory Over the Sun" by David Lau, 2016
10. "Parto, ma tu ben mio" from La Clemenza Di Tito by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (sung by Cecilia Bartoli), 1992*
11. "Bel Canto" by Lina Mounzer, 2017
12. Aria from Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saëns (sung by Klaus Nomi), 1981*
13. "Three Preludes for an Opera" by Hasan Hujairi, 2017
14. "The People Are The Heroes" from Nixon In China by John Adams (performed by the Orchestra of St. Lukes), 1988


Joe Namy is a composer and media artist addressing identity, memory, power, and currents encoded in organized sound/music—such as the politics and gender dynamics of bass, the color and tones of militarization, or the migration and asylum patterns of musical instruments.