Opera fiXi (2013) is a bicycle opera written and directed by Kaffe Matthews and made in collaboration with theatre company Visões Úteis, with location based software by Dave Griffiths. Made for Porto, it was commissioned by Serralves em Festa 2013, and was a Serralves production curated by Pedro Rocha, running from May 25th to June 29th daily.
Opera fiXi tells of a time and place where the fishermen are women and the mermaids are men. Where the mermen have breasts and seaweed hair and play fishing line harps, and the fishergirls wear fishskin suits as they sail out to sea singing songs pitched at the frequency of the human heart (298.5Hz), calling to the male fish to come into their huge meshed nets woven from their hair and grape vines. Performed through a unique sonic bicycle system that locates the music in layered fragments to spots along the river Douro, audience is invited to the festival bike shop on the Ribeira downtown Porto, to take out a sonic bike and cycle riverside to the lighthouse and back, the music unfolding around them as they go.
Sonic cycling takes audiences on beguiling journeys, often beautiful and otherworldly, at times funny and maybe strange but always convincing. FREE.
Opera fiXi’s content is inspired by contemporary fishing, the river Douro and its water quality, the duration of an overnight fishing trip and the pollution found in the river causing male fish to turn female. Together Matthews and VU had researched bicycle routes in Porto finding that the only tenable path was the riverside one to the sea. Thus this path became the score and the river’s life within and contemporary life growing and collapsing alongside, the source for the libretto. The libretto and twelve songs were written by Matthews except the fisherwomen songs which are adaptations from Scottish and Portuguese folk music. The lyrics were by Matthews, Carlos Costa, and Ana Vitorino(VU), with translation to Portuguese by Costa, Vitorino and VU musician, collaborator and local musical fixer João Martins.
The songs and music were performed by a choir of fisherwomen from Afurada across the river, a group of children aka the Pollution choir, a rap crew, one of Portugal’s most notorious rock singers, an opera singer, some theatre students, a digital water quality professional, an elderly man and woman who never met aka the lovers, and members of NEFUP – a group of ethnographic vocalists who also adapted fiXi lyrics to two of their folk songs extraordinary harmonies.
Fixe means cool in English but sounds fish in Portuguese. Fixe sounds fixy in English. fiXi?
VOCALISTS ( in order of appearance)
The Fisher girls / NEFUP Núcleo de Etnografia e Folclore da Universidade do Porto
The Pollution choir / Instituto Orff do Porto
Inês, João, Jorge, Luis, Manuel, Leonor, Vicente, Daniel
The Fisherwomen / Grupo Coral da Afurada
Maria de Fatima
The six male fish
Adolfo Luxúria Canibal
João Martins – Porto musical support, enabler and collaborator, bass and soprano saxophone, laptop acústico and other instruments
Angélica Vázquez Salvi – harp
Kaffe Matthews – electro-acoustic processing, contratear , field recordings.
Additional arrangements on raps Pedro Augusto
Rap lyric adaptation – Nuno Moura
TECHNICAL.The GPS based sonic bike system that enables different sounds to play from the bike in different places was first made in 2008 for The Marvelo Project commissioned by the Folkestone Trienniale. Software build, Wolfgang Hauptfleisch; Hardware Alexei Blinov. This system evolved for the ‘The swamp that was…..’ bike opera, with Beagleboards now replacing hive boxes and Dave Griffiths on software development. Dave continues on coding and tinkering with sonic bikes for Opera fiXi and more.