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London theatre to stage "Gaddafi" ... the opera

Written by: Staff

LONDON, May 4 (Reuters) With a new production about Libya's colourful leader Muammar Gaddafi, the English National Opera boldly goes where no opera house has gone before.

''Gaddafi'', which opens in September, will feature Asian beats and rap in place of arias and romance, and the title role will be performed by a 39-year-old Irish-Indian nightclub MC called JC-100.

The opera tackles some of Libya's most controversial moments on the world stage, including U S attacks on the country in 1986, the Lockerbie disaster of 1988 and the shooting of police officer Yvonne Fletcher outside Libya's London embassy in 1984.

Little wonder its creators see the project as high risk for one of Britain's two main opera houses.

''It's absolutely unprecedented,'' said Steve Chandra Savale of the Asian Dub Foundation, who composed the music.

''It's totally unexpected. Some might say it's insane,'' he told Reuters. ''But I like that. I don't see that as a negative thing. The ENO has shown great vision.'' At a workshop rehearsal in West London, JC-100, dressed in khaki fatigues and sporting dark glasses, utters totalitarian mantras like: ''Women, free yourselves from the imams'' and ''Guns are beauty. With them you are angels of revolutionary purity.'' Two ''revolutionary nuns'', modelled on Gaddafi's infamous female bodyguards, tout replica rifles as they sing: ''God keep our leader safe'' and ''For him we give up our mind and beauty.'' Savale and director David Freeman insist the opera is not a spoof of a leader often portrayed in the West as a loose cannon and dictator, but who has won his way back into U S and British affections in recent years.

More Reuters KD DS1300

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