Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Abuzz About The Fly

The Los Angeles performing arts scene has been abuzz lately about the new and groundbreaking production of L.A. Opera.

Remember the cult classic sci-fi/horror film "The Fly"? That movie starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis back in 1986 has metamorphosed to thrive on stage - not as musical, not as play, but as opera!

Quite a courageous cross-pollination of pop culture and old world art.

There are many milestones in:

Its staging at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown L.A. is the opera’s U.S. Premiere.

Legendary tenor Placido Domingo conducts.

Multi-awarded playwright David Henry Hwang provide the libretto.

And three artists who worked on the 1986 movie make their debut on stage: Filmmaker David Cronenberg directs, film musician Howard Shore scores, and Stephan L. Dupuis, who worked on creature special effects in the 1986 and 1989 movies resurrects his work for the stage.

The opera version is quite faithful to the 1986 film, except that its setting is in the 1950s.

Interestingly, “The Fly” is actually a short story written by George Langelaan in 1957 (published in Playboy magazine) and was later transformed into the very first film adaptation in 1958.

Mature viewing is recommended as the opera showcases violence, gore, and sexual themes, which were expressed tastefully.

The libretto, though, I found to be quite wordy, as if events and instances had to be verbally expressed in profusion. It seems the opera could not delineate itself from the genetic makeup of the film.

Some wry humor were perhaps unintended and some unnecessary, thus somehow trivializing the gravity of the story.

Howard Shore, best remembered for his award-winning score for “The Lord of the Rings“ trilogy, provides the right mood and period with his music, although his work here left me as I left the theater.

Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch (Seth Brundle) has a powerful onstage presence. He is able to display his able body as he side-carts and somersaults to showcase Seth's newfound ability. Most impressive is how he is able to deliver his lines under heavy prosthetics and in gravity-defying positions that mimic that of a fly.

But Romanian mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose (Veronica Quaife) is the star of the show. Her presence on stage is electrifying. Several of her arias received well-deserved applauses.

The element of fantasy is used onstage as subjects are teleported from one pod to another in seamless reality. It was most exciting when Seth teleports himself between pods.

That scene where Okulitch steps into the transmitting telepod in the nude is compelling as it signals the beginning of Seth’s last moments as human. The next scene which finds him emerging from the receiving telepod is provocative, with backlights providing a powerful silhouette of the rebirth that has come

“The Fly” is the very first opera I have ever seen in my life and I was quite impressed. And with the main male actor disrobing for art’s sake, it was quite a treat.

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