Origin Blogger: Opening Night of Karen O in Stop The Virgens
An eager and rather well dressed audience filed into the darkened Opera Theatre, to the awaiting echoes of a deep reverberating chant. A lone dark figure keeps vigil on stage, in front of a sheer screen of ghostly skeletal trees. We have entered Karen O’s Stop The Virgens, a ‘psycho’ rock opera seven years in the making and marking its Australian debut at Vivid LIVE.
The screen slowly rises to reveal our hostess for the night, Karen O, wielding a golden horn microphone, dressed in banshee-esque fur and seemingly giving birth to a litter of new ‘virgens’. There are pounding drums, the combined voices of the 28-strong ‘Virgen’ acolyte chorus and a sea of blonde crop wigs. And then it gets weird(er).
Karen O is best known as the lead singer of New York rock outfit the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Those familiar with her back catalogue will know the power of this lady’s voice and the range she can command. Tonight’s production takes this to a more dramatic level. The songs range from the loud and thrashing to the gentle and soothing. The chorus also moves from earthy wild cries to refined harmonies, as befitting the drama on stage.
There is a wealth of talent that has been assembled to bring this project to fruition, including her fellow band mates on stage and co-creator KK Barrett (Being John Malkovich, Lost in Translation) off stage. The set consists of a tilted dais that can only be described as a compact mirror, reflecting another world. It looks precarious and I fear we may loose a virgen into the orchestra pit before the night’s end.
The drama is punctuated by Christian Joy’s incredible costumes which transform Karen from dark priestess, to an aquatic version of the good witch Glinda and finally to an ascending goddess/Madonna offering absolution.
But if you found yourself bemused regarding the story’s direction, you at least had Karen O’s voice to cling to, knowing she’d see you through. She is the anchor, guiding the audience along on lilting scores, soft whispers and primal howls.
This is an ambitious project, exploring the boundaries between theatre and live music. The music and vocals alone were satisfying enough, showcasing Karen O’s ability. If you managed to figure out the rest, well that was a bonus!
Written by Grace Kirupa
Photo by Prudence Upton