David Cronenberg's highly improbable yet highly intriguing operatic adaptation of his 1986 masterpiece The Fly is mere days away from debuting on Wednesday at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, amidst a great deal of buzz (sorry!). Such a bizarre concept--I wonder if it will be any good, or if it can be a success. There's certainly enough great talent involved.
Not only is Cronenberg directing, but the music for the opera was written and orchestrated by the film's original composer Howard Shore (acclaimed in recent years for his Lord of the Rings score), and the musical director is none other than Placido Domingo, one of the most important tenors of the 20th century.
Toronto's Globe & Mail has an interesting piece on the opera's impending debut. The article reveals that the story's setting has been changed by Cronenberg back to the 1950s--the era of the original movie version of The Fly--due to its "visual richness." True to Cronenberg's intentions, the opera's librettist David Henry Hwang has retained the horror of the body that distinguished the director's classic.
According to the article, the idea for this bold new treatment came from the operatic nature of Shore's original score, on which Shore, Cronenberg and even the movie's producer Mel Brooks had often remarked.
“I had always thought the movie was like a stage play,” Cronenberg tells the Globe & Mail. “It's three people in a room, a triangle, and the emotions are very intense, very heightened."
The ambitious production will be a fully realized stage piece, complete with bass-baritone Daniel Okelitch as Seth Brundle, singing while in a mutated fly suit and hanging from the rafters in a harness to simulate wall-crawling. It's a far-cry from Puccini, but opera lovers will note that it's not as unorthodox as it may seem, as imagery from the likes of Gounod's Faust or Mozart's Don Giovanni will attest.
The Paris engagement of The Fly will run from Wednesday, July 2 through Sunday, July 13. It will make its American debut at the Los Angeles Opera in September. One wonders--will a traditional opera audience accept the outlandish production? Will it attract those not normally inclined to attend an opera? It'll be pretty fascinating to see how it all plays out.
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