The Wings of Daedalus

  • Music: Maurizio Squillante
  • Libretto: David Haughton, Fabio Squillante
The Wings of Daedalus


The Opera

The idea of an opera about the Cyborg, seen as contemporary Daedalus, was born around 1997 when Maurizio Squillante attended the performance of “Parasite” by the Australian artist of Cypriot origins Stelarc, today the most acclaimed body-artist and performer in the world. The initial idea was then developed by Squillante with Sebastiano Fusco, hinging it on the analysis of the classical texts referring to the mythical figure of Daedalus and to the Minoan cycle (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Pseudo-Appolodorus, The Library). This study served to develop a poetic construction which, even if referring to the narrative structure of the myth, is distanced in its aesthetic forms, which are, rather, configured according to the most extreme contemporary canons.

The performance, inspired by the narrative theme of the Minoan myth, shows a chain of symbolic events that describe a path which begins at the exit from the labyrinth of dogma, becomes concrete in the hyper-individualistic path that Cyborg charts and ends in a new labyrinth represented by the network of infinite repetition of known experience. There the future Daedalus will transcend once more his human nature, renouncing his physicality, to become pure information.

The Work will try to draw out these concepts through the use of those leading-edge technologies which already today signal the advent of the Cyborg. Electrodes placed on the bodies of dancers who release themselves in an automatic dance; three-dimensional images springing from virtual worlds; live electronic transformation of the timbre of voices, the continuous interrelation between all participants, virtual and not; the construction of mechanical-robotic Exoskeletons and Movatars which will clothe the bodies of some dancers; video cameras with programmed movement and focus; all this to describe the possible sublimation of humanity and of our corporeal matter.

Music And Voices

The absence of an orchestra is intentional. Coherence imposes a rapport with electronic musical technology which, in the context of this opera, overcomes and transcends human gesture. Only the voice remains, mirror of all souls, source of all symbols, the matter of the Spiritus Mundi and pure sonority on tape, to underline and characterize in timbre diversity and “affects” or emotions. The aim is that sound becomes dramaturgy, narration, and not only form or structure.

The compositional technique developed for this opera is based on the interrelation between the singers and the poetic text. The score rises from a complex formal process that finds in “trance” the means that the singer uses to come into contact with the poetic text and the symbol which the characters delineated therein embody. It is in fact through “trance” sessions, induced and guided by the composer (M. Squillante), that the singer, overcoming the automatism of improvisation of a given score catapults self into a symbolic and direct experience of the sub-conscious. The result will be a rediscovery, in a contemporary and experimental key, of the dramatic value of sound and song.

The Staging And Choreography

The staging will consist of two large screens under which the stage constitutes the point where the action takes place. Five vertically mobile and turnable columns on these steps will accommodate the singers, whose physical immobility will, however, be sublimated by the dancers’ movements on stage: the dancers are none other than the physical “projection” of the voices.

The images of details of the body by tiny video cameras, both invasive (endoscopic) or placed on the bodies of the dancers, and fixed tv cameras programmed for focus, will allow the realization of a live video-artistic direction, also through the elaboration of the images through a graphic processor. All images projected onto the screens will originate from the stage. No material will be pre-produced video. The dancers will interact with the images through sensors placed on the hands, which will allow them to activate the various events on the screens. Also, every so often, their movement will be constrained and automatized by electrical impulses directed to the body of the dancers through electrodes placed on the dancers’ bodies and controlled by a computer.

The images will constitute the scenographical element in constant evolution and change, where the passage from one scene to another, will be counter pointed by the live transportation of the pictures of the performance in an internet window projected onto one of the screens.

Further on, in the second act of the opera, there will be a chorus on tape made with spoken, recited and electronically transformed voices of two actors who will play the roles of the Cyborgs interrelating with Daedalus and Cocalus (Cocalus live and Daedalus progressively becoming an Avatar). The idea is to visually represent the Cyborgs’ chorus with anyone at home who has a web cam installed on their home net system and will connect to the web page of the opera while in performance. Their streamed faces will be uploaded and projected onto the screens on stage. It will really be a chorus of Cyborgs!

The Characters

The opera does not want to re-propose an updating of the myth of Daedalus, but to offer a series of concepts that show how Man has constantly aspired to the transcendence of his nature throughout his unfolding cosmic existence. The performance will therefore not limit itself to considering the figurative allegories of the myth as such. In other words, even if we find the main protagonists of the myth, they will not be related in a narrative form: therefore Daedalus-Cyborg and all the characters around him (Apollo, Minos, Icarus, Perdix etc.) will be part of a single conceptual design, of which they are nothing but allegorical reflections.

  • Apollo, for example, does not anticipate the events of the myth, as happens in Euripides, but conceptually and poetically expounds that concatenation of forces which have always urged humanity towards transcendence and the becoming, the same forces of which it is sole creator.
  • Our Daedalus is neither exclusively the creator of the labyrinth, nor Cyborg, but expresses humanity’s anxiety to transcend its own nature.
  • Icarus, as representing the destructive force of ignorance is deprived of his voice.
  • Minos, like Cocalus, with his frenetic search for order, is the obstacle which denies perfection to Man.
  • Perdix, in expressing joy at Icarus’ death represents only the destructive force of a deviant creative intellect.
  • Cocalus’ daughter embodies the radical force which leads to initiation. She represents the alchemical agent which dissolves negative energies.
  • The chorus. In the first act it incarnates humanity’s conscience. With its songs it interprets the divine messages. In the second act it represents the collective conscience of the society of Cyborgs.

On video

The Wings of Daedalus
November 28, 2003, 10m24s

Creative Team

Performers at the Premiere


A coproduction Chants Libres, Namasté (France) and AIOLC (Italie)

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