Making history

100 years ago today, near Ypres, German soldiers released 150 tonnes of chlorine gas. The French soldiers against whom the gas was released stood no chance, and around 1,000 died. It makes you think that poet and doctor William Carlos Williams may have had a point when he said that: “Man has survived hitherto because he was too ignorant to realise his wishes. Now that he can realise them, he must either change them or perish.”

Composer Steve Reich and his partner, video artist Beryl Korot, certainly agree that too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Their video opera, Three Tales, examines the impact of technology on humanity in the twentieth century – incorporating live orchestra, song, sampled audio, re-processed historical film, and videotaped interviews to create an immersive piece of multimedia surrounding three key events from the last century: the stories of the Hindenburg zeppelin, the nuclear bomb testing at Bikini Atoll and the cloning of Dolly the Sheep. Understated, yet powerful, the piece packs a powerful emotional punch.

It is being performed in the IMAX at the Science Museum at 7.30 tonight, and again at the same time on Friday, by Ensemble BPM, who are joined by Synergy Vocals, the world-renowned vocal collective selected by Steve Reich to premiere the work in 2002, led by former Swingle Singer Micaela Haslam. It promises to be an unforgettable night, not least because it is the first time an opera will have been performed in an IMAX cinema. And it’s not too late to be a part of it – we’re offering Fabric readers the opportunity to bag 20 per cent off last minute tickets. Just call the Science Museum box office on 0870 870 4868 and quote ‘Three Tales 20’