A scientist is convinced that by doing more scientific research, the death of his wife could have been prevented. The religiously inspired authorities however, prohibited this kind of life-saving research. The scientist now lives in exile, together with his daughter. He shuts himself away in a cage of rationality and has problems to deal with the dreams and fantasies of his young daughter. Knowing that he is going to die soon, he starts building an android replica of himself, in order to keep his daughter protected against religious influences, even after his death. When programming the personality of the human android, the scientist struggles with himself, the world and God – even though he doesn’t believe in God. One thing is clear: the copy has to be better than himself, than the original. But will the android replica react in exactly the same way as the scientist did? And where does the scar on his daughter’s back come from?
ACUBENS explores the often problematic relationship between science and religion, basic human activities that have great difficulties to get along with each other. Lectures by the American astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson provided the inspiration for this opera. At the 2008 conference The Amz!ng Meeting, Neil DeGrasse Tyson presented a talk about the anti-rationalist imam Al-Ghazali, who dismissed the investigation of natural phenomena as a waste of intellect, putting an end to the research culture that was so typical for the Middle East a thousand years ago. Tyson talked about his fear that a modern Al-Ghazali would show up in the West, forcing scientists to hide or flee. Video and audio fragments of this lecture are included in the prologue of the opera ACUBENS. After the prologue, the nightmare of Neil deGrasse Tyson becomes reality: scientific research is strictly forbidden in the country that the scientist (tenor) and his daughter (mezzo soprano), the main characters of ACUBENS, have fled from. Benjamien Lycke graduated the Royal Conservatory of Ghent (Belgium) with the composition, the libretto and the production of the opera ACUBENS. From a musical point of view, the opera ACUBENS consists of seven different parts. Only the two last parts are written for a full symphonic orchestra, the first five parts are composed for five different chamber music ensembles, building up towards a climax. The set design of ACUBENS, a movable cube equipped with various multimedia techniques, was designed by the architect Jason Slabbynck.
Conductor: David Anne
Staging: Benjamien Lycke
Graphic arts, video and set design: Jason Slabbynck
Costume design: Nathalie Aerts
Soprano: Louise Kuyvenhoven
Tenor: Denzil Delaere
Instrumentalists from the Koninklijk Conservatorium Gent
Sunday, 23 June 2013, Miryzaal Koninklijk Conservatorium Gent (BE)
Saturday, 29 March 2014, broadcasted on OP12, the former third channel of the VRT (BE)