Photo: Nada Žgank / Miha Fras
Five Fathoms Deep My Father Lies is a multi-site underwater opera staged across the globe in private bathrooms, water tanks, swimming pools and ocean grottos. The opera takes shape around the material tension between water and air to explore the old lure of sirens and shipwrecks alongside the urgent ecological specters of drought and drowned cities.
The first work in which a vocalist sings directly into water, Snapper merges extended techniques with Baroque naturalist tropes, and cautionary Wagnerian arias (Erda, Kundry). Each performance closes with a double chorus of local voices lured from the audience to the water; a chorus of lover suicides enacting evolution in rapturous reverse.
The audience gathers around a long indoor pool, lit from below. Snapper enters and approaches the water on her belly, stopping to sing ardently at the feet of one audience member, and then another and another. She is dragged mid-song from her listeners to the water and pulled along the surface a la Busby Berkeley. Her mouth slips below the waterline repeatedly as she sings. An electronic soundswell surges up around the listeners, and the lights blink out. A video plays on the waterʼs surface. Snapper has fallen to the pool’s floor. Her voice rises from the depths with increasing agitation. After several minutes, her feverish singing begins to slow and members of the audience move toward the edge of the water, singing. Sighing, undulating chords well up from the water as their voices merge. Then, a second chorale rises gradually from within the audience: a cicada-like crackle of parched throats that vibrates against the juicy burble of mouths in water. The lights slowly dim.