CD review: RECORD: An Alternative Opera

Words and Music by Dylan Tighe
Produced, Engineered and Mixed by Jimmy Eadie

Reviewed by Sarah Kay

The Cork Midsummer Festival in June 2012 was the launch pad for RECORD, an alternative opera based on Dylan Tighe’s courageous personal journey through the mental health maze. When Dylan obtained his medical records under the Freedom of Information Act he was horrified to discover how he was so narrowly diagnosed and characterized by the medical profession and then prescribed drugs which only made him feel worse. This opera is his testament to that experience told through drama dialogue, a sixteen mm film backdrop, music and song. A clever and humorous script plus a mix of mediums supported by technology creates a modern opera, a theatre of today where all the senses, emotions and reason are invited to participate in the experience. Unfortunately I did not get to see the live show but have experienced a brief taster on the demo on the website, which I would encourage the reader to look at. However, it is the CD and the accompanying lyrics which really hit home. Dylan is already an award- winning theatre director, actor, songwriter and musician and he brings some of these talents together on this CD. After several evenings of pottering in my kitchen and listening to RECORD, I’m really hooked on the upbeat tuneful melodies accompanied by excellent drumming. Musically it is hypnotic, sometimes melancholic, sometimes angry and a gentle despair permeates through the ten tracks. It’s more Bladerunner than Rage Against the Machine.

Dylan has a pleasant singing voice which never overrides the poetic lyrics. He talks of ‘...veins full of Lamotrigine mouth as dry as chalk’ in the track ‘Lamotrigine’ and in ‘Emergency’ ‘…made to feel an imbecile/ with no insight into how I feel.’ I particularly like ‘Opus’, which says ‘…I want to live my life/and call pain by its name’. Also ‘Nostalgia’ and ‘Prodigal Son’, which ends with ‘…And we’ll all cry together/but there’s no more salt for my tears…’ The final song, ‘For Artaud’, changes the mood and the tempo picks up as we get an excerpt from Bertie Ahern’s famous ‘suicide’ speech where he tells people to get on with it and stop moaning.

Ironically, as a parallel process, I listened to RECORD a week after experiencing ‘Rigoletto’, live at the Met in the cinema – a glorious modern take of Verdi’s well known opera, set in Las Vegas in the 1950s, with a fantastic neon stage set, great characterization, costumes and an up-dated amusing script. Both ‘Rigoletto’ and RECORD are different in style, but they have a lot in common. Both tell a universal story of suffering and betrayal through music: a symbiotic catharsis for singers, musicians and audiences providing a collective energetic release of primal feelings at a cellular level, where music becomes not just the food of love but of life.

Dylan eventually found psychotherapy as an alternative to the medical model and by sharing his experience through music and poetry (and by combining left and right brain activities) he is offering opera as a valid and valuable therapeutic option. The Ancient Greeks and Romans recognized the need for emotional outlets to keep society and its citizens healthy and organized their drama festivals to honour both tragedy and comedy. Opera, combining drama with music, developed later and took its audiences by storm with its intensity of emotions. And it is making a comeback.

Art, crafts, music, poetry, dance, movement, drama, writing and play therapy are all valid mainstream therapeutic outlets. Has the ‘talking cure’ alone become too polite, too politically correct? Has our everyday speech (like our food), become so refined, processed and reducing of our passions that a murderous thought becomes ‘depression’ or a heart- rending loss a ‘disappointment’, to be carefully boxed in filing cabinets? How can we safely and passionately express emotions about death, betrayal, lust and revenge or deep longings of desire without being labeled ‘dangerous’ and carted off to a ‘quiet place’. Opera digs deep into imagination, energy, intensity and extremes which may explain its increasing popularity. It’s also becoming cheaper, more democratic as well as more accessible through multi-media outlets.

I think Dylan is really on to something here as he says in ‘Lamotrigine’: …to gift the mind to chemistry/to numb it to the truth/hurts more than the bitter feeling/that joy is but a fluke.’

RECORD was aired on Sunday, April 28th, 2013 on RTE Radio 1.

Dylan can be contacted at: <>