An entirely new work meets an entirely new form: Circus Days and Nights is a circus opera in three acts, written by legendary composer Philip Glass. Its inspiration is Robert Lax’s masterwork Circus Days and Nights, a collection of poems that draws us into the poet’s fascination with acrobats and the circus lifestyle and takes us on the road with him when he “runs away” and joins a circus in 1940s America. For Lax, the circus becomes a metaphor for life itself – the cycle of life and death – and for human yearning and striving. Circus Days and Nights will be a boundary-crossing performance that brings the circus ring into the opera house.
I have had the rights to the poem for about ten years, but I couldn’t write the piece because I hadn’t found my circus. When I saw Tilde’s staging of Satyagraha it struck me: Here’s my circus
In Robert Lax’s poem and vision of the circus as a metaphor for life, I discovered a soulmate and ever since, Circus Days and Nights has had a permanent place on my nightstand. In Philip Glass’s music, I heard the ultimate circus music, music that commingles with the circus disciplines. Having the opportunity to bring together these two sources of inspiration is dizzying and fills me with a sense of humility in the face of life’s breathtaking leaps of faith.
I first met Tilde in 2016, when I saw Cirkus Cirkör perform Satyagraha at Folkoperan in Stockholm. I was wild with enthusiasm and asked them to bring the performance to the Copenhagen Opera Festival. An important part of Malmö Opera’s mission is to be engaged in the development of opera as an artform. This is one reason we are thrilled and honored to be involved in the co-production of this project.
I read the poems and I was really touched by their beauty, their simplicity in a sense, and yet their profundity. The way Lax envisions Circus as an act of creation and the cycle of putting up a show and taking it down is the cycle of life itself.
Circus Days and Nights
An opera by Philip Glass
Libretto: David Henry Hwang, Tilde Björfors
Based on the poems by Robert Lax
Director and concept: Tilde Björfors
Conductor: Minna Weurlander
Set and costume design: Magdalena Åberg
Lighting Design: Ellen Ruge
Rigging Design: Saar Rombout
Sound Design: Avgoustos Psillas
Choreography: Methinee Wongtrakoon, Simon Wiborn
Andreas De Ryck
Margaux de Valensart
Lars Johansson Brissman
Minna Weurlander, accordion
Viktor Nordliden, cello
Inga Zeppezauer, violin
Blagoj Lamnjov, clarinet
Oscar Fransson, trumpet
Martin Jönsson, bass trombone
Sigvald Fersum, percussion
Malmö Opera chorus
World premiere on May 29, at Malmö Opera, Sweden.
Circus Days and Nights is a co-production between Cirkus Cirkör and Malmö Opera