Anatomy Theater Combines Opera with Public Dissection

Bloody opera features gore and nudity as an anatomist dissects and woman who murdered her family to find what made her evil.
Anatomy Theater

The LA Opera premiered a grisly theatrical production called Anatomy Theater from composer David Lang and artist Mark Dion. Based on actual 18th-century texts, it tells the story of a woman who endures endless abuse at the hands of husband. When she finally snaps, she murders him, as well as their children, then takes the plunge on the gallows. She spends the rest of the show as a singing corpse, being gutted by an anatomist and his assistant searching for the vile organ that made her evil.

“We’re living in a world at this moment where people are afraid, where people are afraid of each other,” Lang says, “and this idea of what makes people evil — how you can tell, where it is in them, how you protect yourself from it — is unfortunately a very current idea, but it’s also a very old idea.”

The corpse, played by Peabody Southwell, is naked and dissected on an upright table for 45 minutes. She told The Guardian:

“I can play dead in clothes much easier. But as all of my breathing mechanism is visible and my swallowing mechanism is visible and it’s very obvious. I worked with my Pilates teacher and my meditation teacher. It’s the opposite of singer breathing. I have to find this incredibly shallow breath that I can sustain for 45 minutes.”

Peabody Southwell is dissected live on stage
“Through the miracle of Opera, she sings through it all.”

Anatomy Theater runs through June 20. Tickets and info right here.

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