Rehearsing Eco-Systems. Becoming "Chicken"

Lea Luka Tiziana Sikau (Cambridge University)

Sivan Elder and Cordelia Lynn's 'Like Flesh' (Opéra de Lille, 2022) is an eco-themed opera which explores a more-than-human love relationship between a woman and a tree. With a queer and climate-aware story, ‘Like Flesh’ frames opera as a genre of activism, following trends of interspecies performance in the performing arts at large and eco-themed operas in particular.  The opera’s posthuman take is grounded in ideas of queerness: from a lesbian love story featuring a forty-year age gap, over the nonbinary nature of fungi, to dendrophilia. Against normativity and with the intent to queer gender dynamics and nature representation in opera, Eldar and Lynn create an eco-fiction set out to deconstruct western hegemonic narratives in composition and performance. 'Like Flesh' emerges within an anthropocentric genre embroiled in hetero-normative displays of gender and nature. I sketch out the trajectories of nonhuman materiality bundled up in eco-themed concepts.

Rather than analyzing the final score or performance, this paper discusses the stages of production at the Opéra de Lille and the computer music center Ircam in Paris. The opera’s conceptual embeddedness in ecology processes technology-driven cultures with ethically questionable material engagements and unsustainable energy usage. How does a narrative seeking to undo hetero-normative and anthropocentric views on ecology contract though spaces that institutionalize western art music? How does opera engage with materials and acknowledge natural resources in the process beyond overall emission statistics? An immaterial intent to make a political statement becomes a resource-hungry opera. I analyze the material conditions of rehearsals and trace the procedural engagements with non-human matter within 'Like Flesh' to see how an eco-themed eco-system is produced by breaking chicken legs, molding plastic trees and powering screens.


Lea Luka Sikau works at the nexus of experimental music theatre and media art. Awarded with the Bavarian Cultural Award and a Fellowship for Harvard University's Mellon School for Performance and Theater Research, she currently pursues a PhD in Music on Opera Rehearsal and Posthumanism at Cambridge University. Besides, Lea Luka Sikau has worked with some of the most sought-after visionaries such as Romeo Castellucci, Rimini Protokoll and Marina Abramovic.

As a lyric mezzo-soprano, she has appeared in Germany, Italy, Austria, United Kingdom and the US in a wide range of repertoire. She specializes in baroque and contemporary music, premiering new works in the presence of their composers, including Jörg Widmann, Johanna Doderer, Gene Sxip Shirey, and Hans W. Henze. Moreover, she collaborated with the Stuttgarter Vokalsolisten for the Darmstädter Ferienkurse and the Ensemble Modern.

Her academic papers have been presented at the American Musicological Society, the International Musicological Society, the World Congress of the International Federation for Theatre Research, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Acoustic Interface Conference, the Interactive Film and Media Conference and the Transnational Opera Society. She currently has articles forthcoming with 'Sound Stage Screen' and 'The Opera Quarterly'.