Raising Icarus review – high-flying chamber opera that packs a punch

The Studio, Birmingham Rep
This mythical story of parental wrongs is well served by strong performances and Michael Zev Gordon’s impressive music

‘A timeless story of parental harm done to children”, is composer Michael Zev Gordon’s description of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. His Icarus opera has been a long time in the making; in 2011 he wrote a brief theatre piece based on the legend, but Raising Icarus, staged by Barber Opera, is the real thing, an impressive full-length chamber opera, to a libretto by Stephen Plaice.

It tells the story of the smith Daedalus and his ultimately tragic ambitions for his son in three succinct acts: from Icarus’s failure to be the kind of skilled craftsman his father wants; through Daedalus’s indebtedness to Minos, the ruthless, impotent king of Crete, whose wife, Pasiphaë, is infatuated with a bull by whom she has a child; Daedalus’s building of the labyrinth to contain that monstrous offspring, the minotaur; the father and son’s escape from it on the wings that Daedalus makes for them; and Icarus’s fatal, hubristic flight.

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