Sunday, 31 January 2016

Indigo: dystopic opera with a touch of metal music

Yesterday I went to see an opera called Indigo, by two composers from the well known Finnish  metal band Apocalyptica. If you have not heard their music, I can strongly recommend it. They play metal with four cellos and they are amazing. Here is an interview (and a video clip of the opera!) in English, if you are interested to read more about the composers and the Opera.

This blog post is an analysis on the story and themes of this new metallic opera which was composed by Eicca Toppinen and Perttu Kivilaakso. I shall now warn you that this post contains spoilers, though with an opera that is not always a bad thing. Quite often one needs to have a significant amount of information about the plot in order to follow an opera performance. Partly because the tradition of opera just is so and the other reason is that often characters might sing their lines at the same time and actually hearing what they say is sometimes challenging. The synopsis with background information and the plot of the Indigo Opera can be found at the Finnish National Opera's webpage. The language of the Indigo Opera is English.

The situation where the story starts is that a corporation called CoOp Co has produced a drug to make people sleep less and hence be more productive. Alas, after 7 years the users get serious side effects, suffer and die. Everyone is eager to save them but the tests to find a cure are very dangerous. Last time they tried the test a scientist, who acted as the test subject, died. In this dangerous test the science team tries to get access to (and data from it) human's deepest level of subconscious, where the key to control sleep resides and that level is called Indigo.

In the Indigo Opera there are several parties who are interested in finding a cure: the company's scientists Daniel, his father, and Aurelia (in love with Daniel), the spokeswoman of the company, the widow of the scientist who died, and the Minister of Propaganda and his General, who represent the governments interests.

Indigo depicting the problems of moral

I think this opera problematizes moral and the relations of "reasons - deeds - results". The situation is severe, victims of the anti-sleep drug are furious and they are becoming an angry mob and the peace and security of the whole society is crumbling. Also the rioters themselves are in serious danger because of the drug. The first moral problem is, by what motives can different characters justify their wish  to continue those dangerous tests. And does it even matter? The Minister of Propaganda (the name gives quite the negative connotations, doesn't it?) only speaks about the health problems of the victims and how they are dying and how that must be stopped. But: he is characterized as a perv-y and pompous dude and you would imagine he is more concerned of keeping his position and maintaining the security of the society, not the victims. Still, he only acts as if he is on the victims' side, so is he morally more dubious than others if the goal and the deeds to reach it are the same? Only his own private reasons to act might be different.

Also the spokeswoman of the company says she wants to save the victims but one of the scientists, Daniel's father, is calling out her bluff while accusing her of the situation. He may have made the drug but the company decided to put it on market even though it was not safe. I think Indigo depicts how often there is no moral high ground to stand on and situations are seldom black-and-white.

I'm sure you all are familiar with the phrase "the ends justify the means" and I assume you know that a moral guideline like that is very problematic (an example: is it morally ok to euthanize every third citizen of a country in order to fight overpopulation? I believe the answer is no). This is the second moral problem: after considering what are the motives behind the wish to act on a problem, then how can one justify the actual actions aka. deeds? There is a pressure to perform that dangerous tests, that is very likely going to kill the human test subject. What means can justify an end like that and vice versa? Of course these two moral problems of motives and actions in relation to results are entangled and make the situation even more complicated.

Indigo depicting the hopelessness of humanity

It is argued, that the spokeswoman is only concerned of the company and it making money. This is proved to be true when Daniel's father confesses his guilt about making the drug and the angry mob kills him. The spokeswoman takes advantage of the situation, and makes the killed man her scapegoat. She storms to the scene with some assistants, blames everything on the dead man, promises to cure everyone (though there is no cure because the new test failed) and distributes some money to the masses. The mass of victims is fooled and they are happy and satisfied with some empty promises and petty money and the riots cease.

My opinion is, that this scene questions the future of humanity and what are our true values. For me the theme of Indigo is hopelessness. It also manifests how human interaction and real encounter between two humans is an illusion. This idea is extracted out of another significant part of the main plot, which is the love affair between Daniel and Aurelia, who both work at the company.

In the Opera, after some debate Daniel becomes the human test subject. He is plugged into a machine and he starts to drift towards the Indigo level of his subconscious. He ends up into a dream-like landscape and meets the previous test subject, who had died. The dead man claims that Daniel is inside his mind and that he controls everything in this other reality. Unfortunately, this reality can not contain two human minds and the previous test subject has to "leave" and it is implied this means he dies for good. The weird realm becomes Daniel's mind now.

Same time at the other reality it seems that Daniel has died during the test and that others did not get enough data of the process to make a cure for the victims of the drug. Situation is quite hopeless and people grieve Daniel's death. In the end of the Opera Aurelia decides to be the one last test subject in order to try to find Daniel and to get the much needed data for the cure. She is aware that she is sacrificing her life in this attempt.

Aurelia reaches the Indigo level and meets Daniel. Then follows a scene in which Aurelia and Daniel sing a very emotional song about how "they live forever in their love" which can only be seen ironically, since right after the song Daniel "must leave" like the previous test subject and Aurelia is left alone in the realm that now has turned into her mind. She is sorrowful for about 30 seconds but then she realizes how amazing, vast, and beautiful her own mind is and becomes almost deliriously happy in her own solitude.

The Opera ends, and there is no reassurance that the people in the reality got the data needed to make the cure and could save themselves. Quite hopeless, don't you agree?

Final conclusions 

The conventions of opera songs reinforces this ironic way to interpret the end of the Indigo, since opera is a genre in which great emotions and epic fates are shown by epic music: the more forcefully and knowingly something is expressed the flatter the actual emotions behind it become.

I liked Indigo very much and especially how it uses those conventions of opera and thus can comment on them. I loved that the grim situation of the characters did not get magically fixed but actually shows how Deus Ex Machina sort of plot twists and especially ways to save the characters are a mere illusion.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and please comment what do you think about opera, dystopias or the Indigo Opera if you've happened to see it!


  1. My husband loves opera. I'll have to take him to see this when it comes to town.

    1. I do hope this show goes on a tour abroad and you get to see it. :)

  2. Do you see any chance that this opera will be played outside Finland as well? Otherwise I might have to coax my boyfriend to go there. And is it in finnish (most likely yes, right) or english?

    1. It is in English and I suspect it might go on a tour abroad. :D There were many English and German speaking people in the audience yesterday. ^_^

  3. Agreeing with Lene here, if it comes to Germany I would love to see this! Great review & thoughts!!