Tomorrow night at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Pet Shop Boys will perform with the BBC Concert Orchestra in the world premiere of their Alan Turing opera, A Man From The Future. Via the Guardian:
“For one night only, I’m one of the BBC singers!” marvels Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant – he is adding his voice to the 18-strong chamber choir. “I can’t imagine he’ll blend in,” deadpans his colleague Chris Lowe, who is usually found hiding behind a bank of synthesisers at their shows. He is worried about the lack of dry ice and lasers at the Royal Albert Hall. “The lights are always on [at classical concerts], aren’t they? I personally am going to feel very exposed.” It is not the first time a pop group has featured at the Proms. From Soft Machine’s 1970 set (later turned into a live album)to last year’s 6 Music and 1Xtra specials, pop and rock acts have often played a part in the two-month series. But Tennant and Lowe are doing something different this year: performing the world premiere of an ambitious new work, A Man From The Future. Based on the life of the extraordinary mathematician and Enigma code-cracker Alan Turing, it’s an orchestral pop “biography” in eight parts for electronics, orchestra, choir and narrator.
Late last year Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon for the 1952 homosexuality conviction that ultimately led to his suicide. The pardon prompted Tennant to change the closing of the opera.
“We had to [rewrite the ending to] point out that the convictions of tens of thousands of other men remain, and that hasn’t really been discussed,” says Tennant. However, the finale has a celebratory feel, and recognises the changes in attitudes towards homosexuality, globally. Tennant lists these happily: a 2013 US poll in which 52% of Americans were shown to approve of same-sex marriage, the moment in 1994 when John Major lowered the age of consent to 18 (“everyone forgets it was him that started things off”).
Tomorrow’s event will begin with Chrissie Hynde providing vocals on orchestral versions of several Pet Shop Boys classics, including Rent and Love Is A Catastrophe. The Turing opera will follow. The concert begins at 5:15PM New York City time and I’ll post a live stream if one is available.