It takes a certain level of ambition and competency for a musician to tackle an art form that is over four centuries old, but Filippo Paolini (better known as the Italian sample cut-up artist and turntable extraordinaire that performs under the moniker Økapi) is facing this challenge head on in his third full-length album, Opera Riparata, out August 21st through the Illegal Art record label.
Approaching the work with a deep respect and appreciation for the lingering contributions that opera continues to have on modern day music, Økapi has crafted an LP that is a genuine labor of love. Each of the album's 40 tracks contains samples from classical opera scores that are fused with atmospheric rhythms and beats to create something wholly original.
This monumental endeavor is based on Bruno Munari's Opera Rotta, a project that took shape in the 1980s as an attempt to reinvent opera for a new age. Munari would deconstruct elements from 40 famous opera pieces, ranging from scenery to costumes to music, and reconstruct them in a completely new and different way every night in front of a live audience. "Everything was assembled in real time on stage, like a game of infinite possibilities," says Økapi. "I find that the art of recombination by Bruno Munari has many similarities with the sound collages that I create."
From progressive song structure to emotional lyrics to dramatic stage showmanship, there are countless facets of music taken for granted which owe their staying power to the widespread popularity of opera so many centuries ago. But as influential as opera has been, a little bit of it can still go a long way. Keeping this in mind, Økapi has engineered every track on Opera Riparata to clock in at exactly one minute and eleven seconds. This demolishes the wall of inaccessibility, opening the door for anyone who is curious about experiencing the vast impact opera continues to have on the music we listen to on a daily basis.
Økapi also hopes to continue opera's tradition of immersing the audience in something bigger than the music when he performs Opera Riparata tracks live. After working closely with a video production studio, several visual pieces have been developed that will be shown alongside Økapi's audio murals while the master is turntabling at concerts. Through this he hopes to connect the audience to the emotions contained within the album in ways sound alone cannot achieve.
Økapi hopes that even those who have never had an interest in opera gives this album a chance. He admits that densely composed classics can be a lot to take in, but he believes the effort is worth it. "I understand if there is initial mistrust towards Opera Riparata," he says. "I still have difficulty digesting many of the works that are considered to be timeless, but through careful listening I have discovered unprecedented wonders."
Opera Riparata offers a profound listening experience for everyone, one that both educates and engages. The album certainly exposes those who give it a chance to the depth and beauty opera can offer, but more than that it proves that the future of music in this digital age still has plenty of untapped potential for unique creativity and inspired excellence.