Damon Albarn’s new ‘Gorillaz’ opera premieres in Manchester

Monkey gets standing ovation on opening night

Damon Albarn’s circus opera launched the Manchester International Festival last night (June 28).

The Blur man composed the music for ‘Monkey: Journey To The West’, a show designed by Gorillaz artist Jamie Hewlett and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng.

The opera, a mixture of stunning live-action circus acts and animations, saw Albarn, Hewlett and Shi-Zheng received a standing ovation as they joined the cast onstage for the curtain call at the Palace Theatre.

An adaptation of an ancient Chinese legend, the opera follows the story of The Monkey King, a hyperactive ape who gains immortality after leading a revolt against heaven.

The sub-titled production unfolds amongst a series of impressive live-action acts, including acrobats, contortionists and martial artists.

“It’s the original adventure story, but it’s 2000 years old; that’s what really drew us to it,” said Albarn. “We went to China and travelled around, to get a picture of what China is like now, and combine it with ancient, classic China. Just come and see it!”

Festival Director Alex Poots added: “It’s a fantastic idea, a fairytale, a legend and a contemporary opera being made by three truly innovative global artists.”

The show, which runs at the Palace Theatre until July 7, was the opening event of the first bi-annual Manchester International Festival, an eighteen day bash which includes gigs by Kayne West, Happy Mondays, PJ Harvey and The Fall.

For more information visit Manchesterinternationalfestival.com.

Albarn meanwhile returns to band duties as The Good, The Band And The Queen return to live action with a concert at the Tower Of London on July 9.

To check ticket availability and get all the latest listings, go to NME.COM/GIGS, now.