Plastic bad, plastic good, plastic opera

SHAFTESBURY-based composer and musician Karen Wimhurst has created a chamber opera, Synthetica – A Toxic Enchantment, which addresses one of the biggest challenges of our time –plastic.

First performed as WRAP-2, a work in progress, at Poole’s Lighthouse arts centre in 2018, the opera was due to be toured around the country, but now Synthetica is getting its premiere online, in an exclusive screening on Friday 12th February at 7pm.

Vinyl crackles, a locked groove, plastic waves breaking upon the shore of a new continent, Synthetica, rising from a sea of glass. It’s the dawn of the 20th century and a new eco-material is appearing, promising a glorious democracy worldwide. During the 1930s the scintillation of cellophane crystalises a modern era of Freudian advertising. By the end of the century, the horror of the Pacific Garbage Patch is the new continent manifested in our oceans.

The performers are the Singer (soprano Brittany Soriano), trumpeter Elaine Close, vinyl DJ Ole Rudd and Karen.

The work is in ten movements, exploring the history of people and plastic – through the chemical processes that made Synthetica, the dreams of a better world, the creation of Bakelite and its multiple uses, the invention of malleable clear cellophane, plastic in war and peace, plastics freeing the housewife from the drudgery of scrubbing, vinyl records offering the “[plastic] potency of cheap music” (to misquote Noel Coward) …

With a powerful but provocative message, and Karen Wimhurst’s ethereal and sometimes shocking music, Synthetica forces the audience to think about the planet’s greatest environmental challenge.

The screening begins at 7pm and will be followed by a Q&A session at 8pm. Visit to register for the YouTube screening.