As previously reported, Blur frontman Damon Albarn has been planning a new opera project with his long-time Gorillaz collaborator Jamie Hewlett and Alan Moore, author of the classic graphic novels From Hell, V For Vendetta and Watchmen.
Yesterday Albarn told NYmag.com that the opera will take as its subject the figure of Doctor John Dee (pictured above left), consultant to Queen Elizabeth I and notable imperialist, mathematician, occultist, astronomer and much else besides.
“[The opera is] based on the life of John Dee, who was a very influential force in Elizabethan Europe, especially England,” said Albarn. “He was responsible for creating the concept of the British Empire. So he affects all our lives in one way or another. He was an alchemist…It’s about his life.”
Asked if he’s got anywhere with the actual music as yet, Albarn replied, “No, not really. This will be the first time I’ve stopped writing for six months; I’ve just been reading about Hermetic magic and catalysts and philosophy, which is what all of his stuff is based on — Euclid and Pythagoras and all of that stuff. It’s a lot. And it’s been brilliant. I’ve got an idea of how it’s going to sound.”
An occult icon, Dee dedicated much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy, and has figured or been referenced in the work of many writers, artists and filmmakers over the years, including Derek Jarman, Peter Ackroyd, H.P. Lovecraft and Michael Moorcock. Some believe that he was the inspiration for the character of Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Albarn and Hewlett are of course no strangers to opera-style productions, having previously conceived and executed the acclaimed Monkey: Journey To The West.