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Pagan Poetry at The Royal Opera House

April 16th, 2008

To appreciate opera often requires a bit of work on the part of the audience. Rather like a good massage one has to relax into it, resisting the urge to brace oneself against the shrieking divas. The Icelandic singer Bjork has the same effect on me. Like Kate Bush she has a strange childlike voice that I found initially unattractive, but staying with it I found it grew on me, and – like Kate Bush – her songs and her interests are far from childlike. In March this year she upset the Chinese government by shouting ‘Tibet! Tibet!’ at the end of her song ‘Declare Independence’ that she was singing at a concert in Shanghai.

Well blow me down but the first ‘pop’ singer the Royal Opera House has allowed in its hallowed halls has been Bjork whose concert there in 2001 was reportedly her best. With a choir from Greenland, a harpist and others she performed ‘All is Full of Love’, ‘Pagan Poetry’ and ‘Cocoon’, which you can see here. The others can be found on Youtube.

A DVD is also available, and Daniel Mitchell explains: ‘If you are a Bjork fan, this DVD is essential; if you are not, Live at the Royal Opera House offers an in depth and complete explanation as to why a bizarre little woman from Iceland can sell millions of records all over the world. Fans of Bjork must swallow the pill that Bjork, in her late thirties, is at her creative peak, and her latest album, Vespertine, is the work of a creative genius at the peak of her skills. Vespertine is one of the most unique and beautiful records ever made by a contemporary artist of any genre, and Live at the Royal Opera House captures Bjork performing songs taken mainly from Vespertine.