March 29, 2013

Monkey: Journey To The West to kickstart in USA - Damon Albarn does Opera

To the West it goes - Damon Albarn's opera "Monkey: Journey To The West" is journeying  truly to the 'west' of the world map. Fans in USA will be able to witness the show because the opera will be playing in this year’s Lincoln Center Festival.

The production, created by Damon Albarn and his Gorillaz partner Jamie Hewlett, originally premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2007. The new set of productions will be Monkey: Journey To The West's New York debut. It will be staged 27  times at the David H. Koch Theater, from July 6 to 28.

“It sold more tickets than any other single event in the 36-year history of Spoleto,” said Nigel Redden, director of the Lincoln Center Festival, “But it’s never been in New York and to some extent, many artists feel their work has not premiered in the U.S. until it has premiered in New York.”

Monkey: Journey to the West is a tale about a monk's perilous, adventurous and self-discovering journey from China to India while he searches for sacred Buddhist scripts. The opera is headed by legendary director Chen Shi-Zheng and features original music from Damon Albarn. It combines theater with illustration (by Jamie Hewlett), Chinese martial arts, acrobatics and dance. An official album of the soundtrack was released in 2008.

"A high-octane, 90-minute rock 'n' roll circus…breathtaking." —Guardian 

"A life-enhancing triumph." —Evening Standard (U.K.) / "The event of the year." —Time Out London

Even though Damon Albarn hasn't revealed any new plans for Gorillaz material, it seems that his previously rocky relationship with Jamie Hewlett has repaired, replenished and rejuvenated. After all they will be working closely together for the new set of shows in America.

Perhaps Damon Albarn will decide to release new Gorillaz material, if all goes well with Jamie and the opera. A good plan after the Blur shows of 2013?

Monkey: Journey To The West (Lincoln Centre Festival 2013)
Date Time 
Jul-06 8:00 PM (preview) 
Jul-07 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM (previews)
Jul-09 8:00 PM
Jul-10 8:00 PM
Jul-11 8:00 PM
Jul-12 8:00 PM
Jul-13 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Jul-14 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Jul-16 8:00 PM
Jul-17 8:00 PM
Jul-18 8:00 PM
Jul-19 8:00 PM
Jul-20 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Jul-21 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Jul-23 8:00 PM
Jul-24 8:00 PM
Jul-25 8:00 PM
Jul-26 8:00 PM
Jul-27 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Jul-28 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM

October 4, 2012

Damon Albarn wants to make Another Opera

Damon Albarn has spoken about his future plans - to possibly write and compose another new opera, following the success of his latest 'Dr Dee'. 

At the English National Opera (ENO) on October 3rd, Damon Albarn said: "I've got a really good idea. I'm not going to say what it is, but it's interesting". 

According to NME, Albarn was at the London Opera house to help launch "Undress For The Opera", a program to attract younger audiences to watch and enjoy opera by lowering prices and relaxing the usually strict dress code. 

dr dee opera, damon albarn opera, undress for the opera, damon albarn 2012

Albarn supported this scheme, and said "I quite like dressing up, but I also like to have the choice. I like the ritual of dressing up to go and see something, but at the same time you don’t have to."

"I’m quite clearly not someone who had any form of opera education. I’ve done it entirely instinctively. The fact that the English National Opera is prepared to encourage that is a great sign of its health."

dr dee opera, damon albarn opera, undress for the opera, damon albarn 2012

It seems that Damon treats opera as a more serious, heavy "long term study thing". "I was too busy jumping up and down on stages around the world when I should have been at college finishing my classical musical education." said the Blur frontman. Without jumping up and down stages, however, where would Damon Albarn be now ? 

Damon Albarn also said: "Opera as a form can go forward and allow people to use these incredible facilities to find something new. At some point I hope I can deliver something to the ENO that ticks every single box but doesn’t compromise where I come from as well."

Looks like we'll be getting a new Albarn opera soon, one that ticks every single box for the fans. 

Check out comprehensive article on "Undress for the Opera" scheme

Order the new Blur: Parklife (Live at Hyde Park CD / DVD) HERE
Order the new Blur boxset HERE
Blur first ever 2012 gig-  Maida Vale gig full coverage HERE
Blur Exhibition review and photos HERE
Margate Gig (2012) review and pictures HERE
Rumours: Blur still play live after Hyde Park? HERE


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January 7, 2012

Damon Albarn's new album "Dr Dee" OUT NOW!

Dr Dee, Damon Albarn's new opera features brilliant music from the frontman, and the soundtrack is now officially ready for pre-order online in Amazon (click to go to page) ! It's a 1 disc CD by Parlophone and it features a very ethereal Albarn in black and white :

Buy Now!


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June 24, 2011

Blur possibly to play in the USA - 2011

American fans watch out - for Blur may play in the USA very soon. 

A featured piece about Dr.Dee has just been published on the Guardian website here

'I'm not a monarchist. But I'm English. And I have an irrational emotion for my country' ... Damon Albarn at a rehearsal for his opera, Doctor Dee. Photograph: Jonny Donovan
As well as new information, Damon talks about Blur, his Flea + Tony Allen album (a bit of work still to do; it's 'largely instrumental') and plans to make an album in a week in the Congo this summer. 

The part that interests us most is of course, the BLUR part. Blur, Albarn says, may reunite again, to play their old songs in the US, though when asked about the possibility of new Blur songs, the reply was  a mumbled "don't know". There is also final work to be done on a largely instrumental album made by Albarn, Allen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist 
Michael "Flea" Balzary.

The whole article is found below. Do read it all.. it's an interesting read and Damon is giving better and better interviews as he progresses. 


It's Tuesday morning in the mess of glass, metal and international retail brands that is modern Manchester, though Damon Albarn has arranged to meet me somewhere very different. Just across the road from the city's Victoria station is Chetham's Library – the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, and a place once frequented by Karl Marx. Inside its reading rooms, there is a beautiful hush.
Albarn, currently sporting a thick beard, is here in connection with someone currently much on his mind: John Dee, the confidante of Elizabeth I, mathematician, navigational pioneer, alchemist and supposed magician who served as the building's warden for 10 years at the end of the 1500s, when it was an adjunct of the nearby cathedral. By this time, having blazed an intellectual trail across Britain and Europe, Dee was at the end of his life, with plenty of controversy and emotional wreckage behind him. One biography sums up his presence in Manchester as a matter of "virtual exile, placing him far outside the orbit of the Queen and her court". His existence here seems to have been forlorn and unproductive, and made yet more wretched by the death of Elizabeth in 1603. He returned to London two years later, but lived for only another three years – though at 82 he hardly died young.
Now, Dee's ghost has returned to Manchester in rather more favourable circumstances. Albarn and the director Rufus Norris have built an "English Opera" entitled Doctor Dee around his story, which will be premiered as part of the Manchester International festival on 1 July. On the other side of town, a company of actors and dancers is deep in rehearsal, while elsewhere the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra is perfecting the score – any time now, they will be joined by a core of musicians, including Tony Allen, the 70-year-old Nigerian drummer whom Albarn credits with a "cosmic pulse". Albarn himself will take an onstage role – delivering, he says, songs that draw lines between Dee's time and our own, centred on "relationships, religion, hedonism, the reinvention of ritual . . . and politics, a little bit. There's a lot going on."
To make things even more interesting, the production is intended to evolve as it's rehearsed and performed, which partly explains Albarn's visit to Chetham's library: when the chief librarian appears with a handful of books once owned by Dee and strewn with his annotations, Albarn reaches for an A4 notebook, and scribbles down at least one line he seems to think might help him with a lyric. "This isn't like making a record," he says. "It changes. And when we present it on that first night, it'll still be in a state of flux."
Alchemy and court intrigue, the linking of two Elizabethan ages, and music that fuses no end of influences: as the Guardian's music critic Alexis Petridis put it in 2007, "to think Albarn was once compared unfavourably to Liam Gallagher . . . These days, that seems a bit like comparing David Bowie to Les Gray of Mud."
The range of his recent(ish) work is dazzling. In January 2007, Albarn released The Good, The Bad and The Queen, created by a band including Tony Allen and the former Clash bassist Paul Simonon, and sprinkled with the same English mysticism that the music from Doctor Dee evokes. Later the same year, there was the premiere of Monkey: Journey to the West, the work of Albarn, the artist Jamie Hewlett and the Chinese actor and director Chen Shi-Zheng. In 2009, Blur temporarily reformed, crowning their return with a performance at Glastonbury; and in 2010, Albarn released the third album by his ongoing pop projectGorillaz, featuring, as always, Hewlett's artwork. And now there is this – his bravest step yet away from the musical mainstream.
The genesis of Doctor Dee dates back at least two years. Alex Poots, the Manchester festival's director, had approached the writer and graphic novelist Alan Moore with a view to involving him in a stage production, and Moore's passionate interest in Dee led to a meeting with Albarn and Hewlett. Albarn had already begun to think about working on an unspecified "heartfelt English piece", and learning about Dee's story hardened his resolve – but Moore and Hewlett then dropped out, leaving Albarn in charge of the project.
"I knew I had a fascination with aspects of history that were slightly more esoteric," he tells me. "I enjoyed history at school. I'd always had a sense of Pagan England. I have very clear memories of getting caught up in a TV series about Robin Hood when I was a kid. And I can remember having a strong sense of imagery from an old monastery in Sussex, near a house we were living in for the summer. This is all a personal thing: my relationship with these aspects of being English. But this story had so many catalysts: it didn't seem like it would be too mad an idea to start thinking in musical terms."
"I do harbour this feeling about my country, and it doesn't come out that often, because I'm off doing other things," he goes on. "Which is great, because that way, it gets stronger, and it's nice to wait till it really needs to come out. So this is more than something I'm doing for a festival. It's been brewing for ages, trying to find its essence."
Albarn's first source of information was The Queen's Conjuror, a much-praised biography of Dee by Benjamin Woolley, published in 2001. "That showed me how little I knew," he says. "The references go all over the place. So I began to say, 'Well, this month I'm going to be reading up on hermetic tradition. Then cabalism, and then Celtic pagan tradition, then the origins of Christianity.'" He says he's still ploughing through a mound of reading that may take five years to complete; the latest book is The Night Battles, an account of witch-hunts in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg.
Drawing one central storyline from Dee's incredible story looks almost too challenging. His life moved from London, to Cambridge, to Belgium, on to the Elizabethan Court, and in turn to Central Europe. His range of expertise was extraordinary, in an era just before science and the occult began to be disentangled. Dee has been credited with the first use of the term "British Empire"; he certainly insisted that England had a legitimate claim to North America, and argued that territorial expansion had to be led by a navy. His story intersects with those of such major Elizabethan figures as Francis Walsingham and Walter Raleigh; he is also believed to have been the inspiration for Prospero in The Tempest, and possibly for Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.
So where to start? Two weeks before my visit to Manchester, as various rehearsals take place around Albarn's HQ in west London, I talk toDoctor Dee's director, Rufus Norris. Part of the plot, he explains, turns on Dee's meeting with Edward Kelley, a mysterious figure said to be one of the Elizabethan period's itinerant "skryers" – self-styled seers and psychics. The pair began supposedly communicating with spirits, and then angels – who, Dee claimed, dictated no end of material to him in their own "Enochian" language, which he transcribed using odd symbols somewhere between runes and Greek letters. Unfortunately, Kelley's chief impact on his life was not nearly so other-worldly.
"It could be argued that in Britain, if not in Europe, Dee knew more than anyone else," Norris says. "And yet he screwed up when it came to the most simple imperative – to look after the thing that's closest to you. In their last consultation with spirits, Kelley gave him the message from God that they should share their wives. And everything fell apart from there. So in terms of how you find a narrative . . . well, the man learned a huge amount, he searched for more, and that search took him out on a precipice, and he fell off the end. It's a tragedy."
The songs that tell the story draw subtly on Elizabethan music, but also, thanks to Allen, on more unorthodox elements. Doctor Dee's core arrangements are built around organ, harmonium, drums, acoustic guitar, a harp-like Malian instrument called the kora – and such European instruments as the viol and theorbo, the latter a lute-like instrument with a long neck. The music is elegant and full of a sense of warmth and intimacy. In west London I watch a piece called "Godfire" taking shape, intended to suggest both the coronation of Elizabeth I and the recent royal wedding – a reference that might make at least some of Albarn's admirers a little uneasy (in 1997, he turned down an invitation to one of Tony Blair's Downing Street soirees, claiming he was "now a communist"). Alluding to the wedding's ceremonial fly-past, its opening line runs thus: "Hurricanes, spit and Tornado, growled over London today." In Albarn's telling, the song reflects the almost subconscious sense of nationhood that sits at Doctor Dee's heart.
"It was strange," he says. "That day, I was up at the top of my studio. My daughter and her mates wanted to watch the wedding there, because the studio has a big TV. So we were watching it, and I was also watching the fly-past happen outside. I'd just heard 'Jerusalem', and there were trees in the Abbey . . . I was moved."
I say that he doesn't strike me as a monarchist. "I'm not a monarchist. But I'm English. And I have an irrational emotion for my country."
Next year, Doctor Dee will play at the London Coliseum, as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Once its Manchester run ends, Albarn is travelling to Congo, to play his part in a project in which DJs and producers will record and sample Congolese music, and aim to complete a record in not much more than a week. Blur, he says, may reunite again, to play their old songs in the US, though when I ask him about the possibility of new Blur songs, I get a mumbled "don't know". There is also final work to be done on a largely instrumental album made by Albarn, Allen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Michael "Flea" Balzary.
And then? I ask him the question in west London, just after he and the musicians have run through another song. Albarn's face breaks into a smirk. "Oh, something that's the opposite of this. The most cheesy pop record ever."
The world premiere of Doctor Dee: An English Opera is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester International festival, 1-9 July 2011. For more details visit

How exciting! Blur for the USA! 

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June 23, 2011

More Doctor Dee Opera updates - Damon Albarn on NME and interview

Just some more updates on Doctor Dee - Damon Albarn's new opera that's going to premier this July. Thanks to 2-J (Gorillaz Unofficial ) from the forums for the heads up.

From this week's NME MAGAZINE - an article with a few new pictures of Damon, sporting a massive beard and talking about his new opera. Click the scans below to enlarge.

Albarn has written 10 new songs that he's going to perform solo in the opera. Looking forward to that very much, especially as one of them, Apple Carts, has been performed in BBC a few days ago. Check that out HERE

And thanks to the Gorillaz Unofficial website, Damon did a little interview about the opera with fan submitted questions. Here is what is on the website:

Last week we gave you the opportunity to send in questions about Dr.Dee (through our blog, forums and twitter) which we'd pass on to Damon. The level of response was great and thanks to all of you who submitted questions - these were the ones that Damon picked out to answer, and his responses. A big thanks to Damon and well done to those who got their questions answered!

1. Is Tony Allen going to appear live in the opera?
Damon: Yes

2. How do you think the change in our concepts of 'science' and 'magic' impact on contemporary culture, particularly British? What's your agenda on that, that you'd like to get across [in the opera]? 
Damon: I like to imagine a reality where we had held on to ritual a little longer in England, bring back tea ladies!

3. What composers influenced you when you composed this opera?
Damon: I don’t know how much rubbed off on me, I hope a bit but I listend to a lot of Notre Dame School French Music.

4.Damon, did you get to handle any of Dee's artifacts at the British Museum? Specifically the Shew Stone?
Damon: There was talk of it but as of now I have not physically held it

5. Is it a comedy or a tragedy?
Damon: I think it might be more of a Requimedy

6. when you were creating the opera's music was it possible to travel back in time and start the composing from Dr. Dee's england? In other words how accurately can you channel your mind to a specific place or time when composing? or does it come naturally?
Damon: Music is time

7. In the trailer for Dr. Dee, the music that is played through-out features an African chime which flows with the imagery in it. Will this style of music be present in your new opera?
Damon: African Chime one of 7

For More information on Dee check out

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June 19, 2011

New Damon Albarn song "Apple Carts" from Doctor Dee Opera - June 2011

We have a surprise after a lack of news lately - Damon Albarn performed a new song from his new opera Doctor Dee in The Andrew Marrs show yesterday. The song's named "Apple Carts" and it is beautifully sounding, with Albarn's deep croning and soft guitar playing, and kind of resembles his style in The Good The Bad and The Queen. Listen to it by CLICKING HERE
You can also watch the full interview from BBC website (UK Only) by clicking HERE.

The following commentary was by dougharrison from the Blur forums thread:

The only thing said about the opera that were newly mentioned are that: 

1) Its an exploration of Englishness at the time and Dee is the central character rather than it being purely about Dee. 

2) The show is in 3 sections a celestial plane, where musicians such as Tony Allen, the stage/England presumably and an underworld, where the main orchestra is. 

Damon is still not a huge fan of interviews, didn't seem particularly comfortable. After the part about Dee being English the interviewer said this had been present in previous work and Damon said something along the lines of that it was a totally separate from Blur project, but some songs could have been Blur songs and concluded by saying he didn't know what place i.e. project/band he is currently at and writing for. I probably haven't rephrased that particularly well.

I really like the song, it's a great start to possibly a new album by Damon Albarn after his opera, hopefully like Monkey Journey to the West. It's beautiful and soothing, and a song about Silbury Hill and apples fits Damon's simple British style of music writing.

Doctor Dee the opera will premier at the Manchester International Festival in July 2011, and it will then be staged at the home of the English National Opera as part of London's Cultural Olympiad programme. 

Visit their official website here and follow them! 

May 31, 2011

Damon Albarn - Doctor Dee Opera 2011 UPDATE

Doctor Dee Opera

Damon Albarn's new opera Doctor Dee has received some press from a double page spread in the 28th May GUARDIAN newspaper, on the guide to Manchester International Festival. 

Quoted from the article, Damon Albarn's new show is a 'modern English opera' directed by Rufus Norris, about Elizabethan thinker and magician John Dee. In Doctor Dee, Damon Albarn will appear as himself, rather than in character, performing with legendary afrobeat drummer (and bandmate in The Good, The Bad and The Queen) Tony Allen. The BBC Philharmonic will be in the pit. There will also be Elizabethan instruments and some ritualistic elements, will be primal, about the life, ambition and belief of John Dee.

Read the whole article by clicking below, thanks damon4president and 2J for the scans.

March 20, 2011

Damon Albarn's new opera 2011 - Doctor Dee

Damon Albarn has written and will star in a stage show about 16th Century alchemist, astrologer and spy John Dee.
A musical work based on Elizabeth I's medical and scientific adviser, Doctor Dee will have its premiere in July at the Manchester International Festival.
It will then be staged at the home of the English National Opera as part of London's Cultural Olympiad programme.
The Manchester festival will also feature the debut of Bjork's new show during a three-week residency.
Other original productions will be created for the event by immersive theatre company Punchdrunk, film-makers The Quay Brothers, comedian Victoria Wood and performance artist Marina Abramovic.
Manchester International Festival director Alex Poots said the event, which started in 2007 and takes place every two years, was "a home for major artists to realise their most ambitious projects".
Albarn's Chinese opera Monkey: Journey To The West was a highlight of the first Manchester International Festival four years ago and the Blur and Gorillaz singer will present his next production at the city's Palace Theatre.
Albarn did not appear in Monkey but will perform in Doctor Dee.
The show has been co-produced by the English National Opera and the London 2012 Festival and will be staged at the London Coliseum next year.
It will be directed by Rufus Norris, who staged Don Giovanni at the ENO last year and whose Broadway revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses was nominated for five Tony Awards in 2008.
"It will be a big, spectacular show," Mr Poots said. "I know that Damon's passionate about it and he's already written some incredibly beautiful songs, some anthemic songs."
Bjork will launch the Manchester International Festival on 30 June with a show based on her new album Biophilia.
The project combines her interests in music, science and nature and is billed as a "multi-media project encompassing music, apps, internet, installations and live shows".
There will be an app for each song and the singer has invented a range of new instruments for the shows, including a 30-foot (nine-metre) pendulum that harnesses the earth's gravitational pull to create musical patterns.
She will perform six times over three weeks at the Campfield Market Hall.
Punchdrunk will return after creating the acclaimed theatrical experience It Felt Like A Kiss with Damon Albarn at the last festival. Their new show, The Crash of the Elysium, will be the company's first for children.
Elsewhere, the Quay Brothers, celebrated for their dark, disjointed films and animations, will team up with Russian-born violinist Alina Ibragimova to stage chamber music in a promenade setting.
Amadou & Mariam
Amadou & Mariam will play a show in total darkness
Amadou and Mariam, a blind musical duo from Mali, will attempt to stage the world's first concert in total darkness, while comedian Johnny Vegas will present a new theatre show.
Victoria Wood is writing and directing That Day We Sang, about the 1920s Manchester Children's Choir, which will open at the Manchester Opera House.
'Artistic powerhouse'
Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe is to star in The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic alongside the Serbian-born performance artist. The production will feature music written and performed by Antony Hegarty from the Mercury-prize winning Antony and The Johnsons.
The festival will also involve rapper Snoop Dogg, singer Sinead O'Connor, artist John Gerrard, the Halle Orchestra and French composer Mark Andre.
Manchester City Council's executive member for culture and leisure, Councillor Mike Amesbury, said the festival "makes a massive contribution to the cultural offering of our great city and has helped establish us on the world stage as a leading artistic powerhouse".