The perpetually busy Damon Albarn has revealed he is working on another opera. As part of our latest cover story, the Blur and Gorillaz frontman tells Consequence he is putting German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Magic Flute Part Two to music for the first time.
“I got offered this amazing opportunity to set Goethe’s Magic Flute Part Two to music and song,” says Albarn, who previously created an opera based on Elizabethan scientist John Dee in 2011. “I’m kind of teaching myself Goethe, which is not as great a task as it would have been if I hadn’t done a lot of study about, you know, other Renaissance men like Dr. John Dee. I’ve got a lot of the bases because I had to go a long way back to even vaguely understand what that was about. So, I did a lot of that 10 years ago.”
However, Albarn admits there is still “a lot to learn” about adapting The Magic Flute Part Two, which was published in 1807 and inspired by Mozart’s 1791 original opera in two acts to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder.
“I feel like I need to kind of know what I’m dealing with,” he says. “I suppose that’s what the crazy, the joy of the creative process is — finding those connections [in relation to the original] because the urge to write and create worlds is sort of like a madness. It has to be something you literally wake up every morning wanting to do to even have the energy to do it all the time.”
The interview certainly found Albarn in a more positive headspace about the opera than his recent appearance on the Broken Record podcast, when he said, “I never know what I’m doing in that world, I’m a complete idiot. I don’t know if it’s any good. With songs, I’m more confident about that.”
In fact, Albarn actually has plenty of reason to feel confident in the opera world as well. Back in 2007, Albarn and his Gorillaz bandmate Jamie Hewlett co-created Monkey: Journey to the West with Chinese director Chen Shi-Zheng. He also wrote the music for an Alice in Wonderland musical in 2015 and scored Mauritanian film director Abderrahmane Sissako’s opera Le Vol du Boli, which was staged in Paris during the pandemic.
Also on Broken Record, Albarn teased that a follow-up to Gorillaz’s Cracker Island is in the works, but with “an entirely different approach to everything” in an effort to keep the group “alive.” He said, “We’re at a point where we’re going to change. Although it is a very big thing now, it is still, in essence, just two people. If we decided between us that we want to do something unrecognizable then we will.”
However, things may have changed since the podcast episode was recorded. Gorillaz recently canceled the US tour they were scheduled to play this September. Speaking to Consequence about the group, he says, “I’ll stop that for a bit now.”
Blur’s ninth studio album, The Ballad of Darren, is out on July 21st. Read our cover story interview with Albarn about reuniting the band for the LP here. They’re currently on their first tour in eight years; grab tickets for that here.