They buried him in Leicester… but in London, RichardRocks!
2015 brings the world premiere of RichardRocks, a concert version of a new rock opera inspired by Shakespeare’s play Richard III and by Al Pacino’s 1996 film Looking for Richard.
This spectacular show, containing no fewer than 36 original songs, is the brainchild of a team from Sweden, Peter Robsahm (music) and Maria Robsahm (book, conceptual director), and their production company, Viper Island Production.
With the aim of showcasing the latest technological developments in lighting, sound design, video and computer animation, RichardRocks The Concert will premiere and run for a limited season.
Starring as Queen Elizabeth Woodville will be world famous singer Anette Olzon, formerly of the symphony rock band Nightwish.
Love, hatred and conspiracy… treason, murder and despair… RichardRocks deals with big themes and big emotions. And what about the all-important (anti-)hero?
“Audiences needn’t expect this Richard to be a hunchback with a bad haircut,” says writer Maria Robsahm. “RichardRock’s Richard is a manipulative, Machiavellian prince and a modern psychopath. Externally, he is charismatic, handsome and witty. It’s inside – morally and psychologically – that he’s distorted. He knows how to get what he wants, whatever the cost. He sees the people around him either as a means to an end or as obstacles to be removed.”
Adding particular richness to the dramatic and musical texture of RichardRocks are the women around Richard: Elizabeth Woodville, the queen and Richard’s main antagonist; the former queen, Margaret; Anne Neville, widow of the Crown Prince (whom Richard has killed) and Richard’s future wife; The Duchess of York, Richard’s mother, and Elizabeth the younger, the daughter of queen Elizabeth, who comforts her mother after the murder of the two little princes in the Tower.
Composer Peter Robsahm characterises all the fascinating personalities in the show – and their often tortuous relationships – with music that, in his words, “combines heavy rock with beautiful harmonies of a more classical cut. The flavours in my music range from Rammstein, Deep Purple, the Kinks and Eminem to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Elgar.”
In an era when so much music is contrived and over-processed, Peter is passionate about creating a score that, while well-structured and full of detail, sounds spontaneous and sensual – as rock music should.
Q: You say you are doing something revolutionary with RichardRocks. Isn’t that what everyone says?
A: We really do mean revolutionary. It is a matter of breaking with traditions in a creative and stimulating way.
First of all, Shakespeare, with all his artistic genius, is not some kind of museum. Instead of anxiously sticking to every word of a powerful theatrical text written 400 years ago, we have chosen to use music and lyrics to shed new light on the story and to make it accessible to a contemporary audience.
Modern musical theatre – whether opera, operetta or the typical West End musical – has it’s traditions too, and those traditions define what happens on the stage.
RichardRocks relates freely to these traditions, but also does something new and original with them, and, technologically, the show contains some surprising and very exciting elements and effects.
You simply have to come along to experience it.
Q: Why Richard III?
A: We have Al Pacino to thank. His film Looking for Richard made us aware of the complexity of the story and all the people involved. And it immediately inspired Peter with ideas for the music that we now hear in RichardRocks.
The whole story is about power and the people who follow power. Richard represents the power that exists everywhere – in the family, in the boardroom, in government, in the entertainment industry… You can find Richard everywhere.
Another important factor is that Pacino didn’t cut out the strong women. Queen Elizabeth assumes her position as Richard’s formidable opponent, but we also put the spotlight on a character like Margaret. Without her and her relentless candour the whole story would lose a crucial component.
Q: Were you influenced by the discovery in Leicester of the long-lost remains of the king himself?
A: Of course, it was truly amazing that they found Richard III’s remains in Leicester in 2012. But by that point we had already been working on RichardRocks for a number of years. When they found his remains, it made us realise that we just had to launch our show this year, which is why our aim is to launch the world premiere for a London scene in the late 2015.