On October 29, RISD will host Queen Boudicca: A Metal Opera, an epic performance that tells the story of an ancient Celtic queen. Don’t think you’ll have to sit through a bunch of high-pitched Italian singing and all those ridiculous wigs. It’s an opera in the sense that it uses music and lyrics to tell a story, and judging by the few tracks I’ve heard, it’s exactly the kind of double bass drum, blazing riffs and screaming that metal fans would want.
This ambitious project sprang from the mind of Bob Schlink, a native Rhode Islander and Associate Professor of Music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. It’s a labor of love for Schlink, who spent six years developing it before he even heard a note of it.
“My son Rob is actually a bit of Celtic myth and history buff, and we were working on a Celtic-flavored metal project,” said Schlink. “It didn’t end up materializing, but soon after I saw a documentary about Queen Boudicca on the History channel. It really stuck in my mind, and I thought ‘I have to turn this into something.’”
The play’s tagline is “Everyone would know the courage of Boudicca if she had been a man,” which, judging by the story, is probably true. Most of what we know comes from the Roman historian Tacitus, but the CliffsNotes are that Boudicca’s husband Prasutagus ruled the Iceni, a tribe in eastern Britain. He was an ally of Rome, but when he died, his will was ignored and the Romans moved in on their turf.
The play follows Boudicca as she takes up the leadership mantle and leads her people in a savage revolt against the Romans, in which an estimated 80,000 people were killed! If that’s not a plot barbarous enough for a metal opera, I invite you to leave a better one in the comments section. “Most people don’t know this story, in part because Romans wrote the history books, and their opinion of women may have been even worse than Donald Trump’s,” said Schlink.
Playing the title role is Ava Gaudet, a Providence native best known for appearing in RENT on Broadway and the TV show Ugly Betty. Adrienne Cowan, who fronts the Boston-based metal band Seven Spires, will take on the role of the warrior Asceawa, Boudicca’s second in command.
The piece premiered last spring at the Berklee Performance Center and drew a respectable 500-plus crowd, but Schlink is excited to see the progress the show has made. “The first time around, we didn’t have a lot of time for technical rehearsal, and pretty much had to wing things like lighting. This time, we’ve hired a sound crew and have had more time to prep the technical elements, so I’m really excited to show it off.”
Schlink went as far as adapting ancient instruments, including the warrior’s lyre, the war carnyx and war horns. “I discovered that the warrior’s lyre fits perfectly with the metal. That thing sounds way more like Green Day than some dude playing guitar at a cocktail party!” The six-foot-high war trumpets are something you won’t be seeing at most rock concerts, either.
Nothing will get you in the spirit of Halloween like costumes, metal and good old-fashioned violence, so be sure to check out Queen Boudicca: A Metal Opera on October 29.
QUEEN BOUDICCA a Metal Opera will be presented at Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium, 7 Canal Walk, Providence River Greenway, Providence, on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased at levelexchange.ticketleap.com/qbamo/dates/Oct-29-2016_at_0800PM
For other upcoming dates and other info, visit queenboudiccametalopera.com