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Dictator or hero? London opera on Gadhafi hits right note

(AFP) / 14 September 2006

LONDON - Once seen by Washington as “the most dangerous man on the planet” but considered a charismatic hero by others, Libya’s Colonel Moamer Gadhafi is the main character in a dazzling modern opera in London.

GadhafiIt has everything to keep spectators on the edge of their seats: images of the desert covered in oil and blood, documentary footage on war and revolution, bombs, missiles, rap music and beautiful female bodyguards in red high heels.

More of an audiovisual spectacular than an opera, “Gadhafi: A Living Myth,” follows step by step the enigmatic Gadhafi and his times to the hip hop beat of the British group, Asian Dub Foundation.

Gaddafi is one of a few spellings that are accepted based on the Arabic transliteration.

Though no Gadhafi admirer, The Times newspaper said the musical at the London Coliseum theater will be the next “Evita”, the hit musical that was based on the life of Eva Peron, the second wife of Argentine dictator Juan Peron.

With a spectacular array of musicians, actors and ballerinas, it recounts the coup that brought Gadhafi to power in 1969, the deadly 1986 US air strike on Tripoli, the Libyan bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s reconciliation with Gadhafi in 2004.

The project was born three years ago when the musician Steve ”Chandrasonic” Savale persuaded the then director of the English National Opera (ENO), which in turn asked the Asian Dub Foundation to do a piece on Gadhafi.

Savale, who wrote the script, was fascinated with Gadhafi because of his “dramatic duality”.

“Who is Gadhafi?,” asked Savale, speaking at the theater near Trafalgar Square.

“Is he a brutal tyrant, sponsor of some of the most destructive acts of terrorism of the last 50 years? Or is he a steadfast anti-imperialist champion of the oppressed peoples of the Earth? A misrepresented national hero? Or a paranoid narcissist? Or is he just a marginal figure that would be irrelevant if he did not have control of what so many powerful forces want: oil.”

Savale, a guitarist, said the work amounts to an exploration of the universal themes of power, revolution, oil interests and international conflicts.

ENO director John Berry said the show, which seeks to introduce a new musical language that mixes rap and punk with north African music, could “redefine opera.”

Whether musical or opera, “Gadhafi” is now one of the most talked about shows in London.

In a review, The Guardian newspaper suggested ironically that the theme of the new show could pave the way for others closer to home.

“Clearly the trend for writing operas about political giants is here to stay. After Nixon in China and this, perhaps we’d better brace ourselves for “Blair: The Final Days,” it said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair last week announced he would resign within a year in a bid to quell mounting protests over his failure to specify an exit date after more than nine years in power.

 

 

 
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