At an event that I recently attended at Faber & Faber, Owen Sheers highly praised ‘In Parenthesis’ by David Jones. I haven’t managed to read the book yet but I saw the Welsh National Opera’s production of Iain Bell's opera ‘In Parenthesis’ which is based on David Jones’ epic poem at the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff last weekend.
Based on Owen Sheers’ remarks, I came to Cardiff with high expectations that were easily surpassed by the WNO’s very dark and incredibly powerful production. The theme, the music and the images all worked together to create a truly evocative experience.
While the opera’s underlying story has strong Welsh references, its relevance is universal. The opera exemplifies the cruelty of war, the cruelty of killing and being killed in war.
Despite numerous people being killed in wars and conflicts around the world every single day, it doesn’t seem that these killings are at the forefront of our collective consciousness. They hardly get mentioned in the media. Confront that with the recent crash of EgyptAir flight 804 which killed 66 people and which has dominated international media for days now.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s terrible that the people aboard this EgyptAir flight had to die. My deepest sympathy goes to those who lost loved ones in the tragic accident. But shouldn’t we question why those deaths receive disparately more attention than the people killed every single day in wars?
More generally, shouldn’t we question why we are so indifferent, often oblivious, to the millions killed in the so-called ‘war on terror’ and associated conflicts? The power of ‘In Parenthesis’ is that it moves the victims of war back into the focus of our attention. This makes it a truly essential opera in our war-ridden times (‘the world as a whole has been getting incrementally less peaceful every year since 2007’).