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Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

July 3, 2008

A new operatic adaptation of David Cronenberg's 1986 sci-fi horror movie, The Fly, is receiving its world premiere tonight at Paris' Theatre du Chatelet before arriving at Los Angeles Opera on Sept. 7.

I'm interviewing Cronenberg about the work for a magazine profile next week, in preparation for which, among other things, I've been re-acquainting myself with the movie.

On the face of it, The Fly doesn't look like it would necessarily lend itself to operatic treatment. Telling the story of a scientist (played by Jeff Goldblum in the film) who accidentally manages to fuse himself with a housefly, Cronenberg's film is packed with gory moments, cheesy lines and steampunk-like technical contraptions.

But upon closer scrutiny, I think the subject matter might make for a very good opera. For one thing, there's the film's exploration of the universal and increasingly-pressing theme of man versus nature. This idea has been explored on the opera stage many times, from Wagner's Das Rheingold to John Adams' Dr. Atomic. For another, the film is so intense in terms of its characters and emotions, that the story plays itself out like a quintessential tragic opera plot. It starts out with a casual meeting between a handsome and mysterious scientist and a pretty, go-getterly journalist and ends up in disaster, death and tears. Finally, the movie's straightforward linear narrative, handful of characters and clear three-act structure would work easily on stage.

Add to this the opera world's obsession with attracting people in their 30s and 40s (as opposed to today's standard 50+ opera goer) and The Fly, with its cult-like status, starts to look like a very sensible proposition. And if Philip Glass, Christopher Hampton and Robert Woodruff can get away with making an opera out of the signing of the treaty of Appomattox, then I think Cronenberg and his collaborators have every reason to create arias and recitatives out of bugs.

According to an Associated Press story, the audience at a dress rehearsal in Paris on Monday apparently broke out in giggles when a mezzo-soprano belted out the film's catchphrase: "Be afraid. Be very afraid." I wonder if it will be possible to take this operatic insect seriously? Or will it end up being a buzz-generating curio -- a theatrical freak of nature like the BrundleFly?


  • You should watch the original film. That thing was really fucking scary (translation: "spumfrey bollocks"). At least to a nine-year-old, which is how old I was when I saw it.

    By Blogger S, At July 2, 2008 at 8:31 PM  

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