Exhausting the Body

12th-13th. July. 2019. Berlin
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Joa Helgesson is a Swedish opera singer based in Berlin.Joa has his roots in Swedish choir school, death metal bands, international composition projects, and studying acting at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, appearing in Chinese and Swedish media. Eventually, he found the ultimate scaffold to combine his diverse artistic ambitions under one roof–opera. Initially studying Chamber Music and Literature parallelly, he graduated as an Opera Singer at the University College of Opera in 2008.

Till breath do us part.

In the late 1960’s, transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof was no longer permitted to use LSD and other hallucinogenic substances in his therapy sessions. He started to develop breathing techniques by which he claimed one could reach similar transgression of the psyche. He would come to call his method “Holotropic Breathwork”. The title “DivO” is a play with letters, an anagram of the name “Ovid”. A metamorphosis if you want. The DivO builds his art on superb breath control, to sustain inhumanly long phrases, quick leaps andscales, and super high and loud tones. When the body, the resonance cavities, and the vocal cords–in short, the instrument-of the DivO vibrate in equilibrium, he enters a state of euphoria. Using similar breathwork to that of Grof, I will force the DivO to lose control, and put him in a mode of exhaustion, transgression, and ecstasy. By going back to the roots of opera, its close ties to the antique theater cults, and its narratives derived from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, I will create a canvas of constantly shifting characters and music, to further invoke a sense of confusion, mantra, suggestibility, and mental shapeshifting. TheMetamorphoses mythos in ancient Greece would bend genders, turn people into animals, plants, stones etcetera. They served as divine punishments as well as rewards or redemption. The musical inspiration and material for “DivO” is exclusively drawn from operas written in the 17th century: -Cavalli’s “La Callisto” (first turned into a bear, and when almost killed by her own son, saved and turned into the constellation of “the Great Bear”)-Lully’s “Atys” (turned into a tree to prevent him from committing suicide)-Blow’s “Venus & Adonis” (Adonis mauled by a boar, his blood turns into anemones when dripping on the ground)-Purcell’s “Dido & Aeneas” (the song about Actaeon, who is turned into a stag and eaten by his own hunting dogs)-Lully’s “Acis & Galatée” (Acis, killed by a boulder, is resurrected and becomes a river)-Steffani’s “Niobe, regina di Tebe” (Niobe, who taunts the gods, sees all her children being killed, and grief stricken turns into a rock). All music in “DivO” written and/or arranged by Joa Helgesson.