The Fly

The Fly at LA Opera

The-fly * Notes *
The Fly opened at Los Angeles Opera earlier this month and has one more performance next weekend. Based only partially on David Cronenberg's 1986 film, the action is set in the 1950s, as George Langelaan's short story and the original film are. All in all, this production was entertainingly campy, though a bit boring. Howard Shore's music for his first opera is fairly consistant with his previous work with film scores, it is not challenging nor is it particularly lyrical. The fly buzzing sound effects were quite silly, as was the use of chorus as the voice of the laboratory equipment. The arias are declarative, rendering David Henry Hwang's libretto rather humorous at times. My favorite line was something like "Here I am alone with my telepods," but "Help me, help me" and "Be afraid, be very afraid" were also amusing. The pacing was glacially slow, and though the opera is under two and a half hours, the energy level seemed to flag in the middle of Act I.

The set, from Dante Ferretti, is striking. Most of the scene changes were done simply by moving people and props into the one set. This means that the telepods and other machines of the laboratory are always present. The costumes suited the ambiance, the colors used by Denise Cronenberg were bold without being garish. Interestingly, David Cronenberg's staging was not terribly cinematic, it was as if someone had told him directing an opera was just like directing a play, but much slower. At least he seemed to believe in Shore's music, the overtures were not fraught with massive amounts of choreography, in fact, the curtain remained down and we simply listened in the dark. However, acrobatics were employed at key moments, and garnered the most spontaneous applause of the evening.

Israel Gursky conducted yesterday's performance well enough. For the most part the singers and orchestra were together, but there were times when the orchestra overwhelmed all of the singers. The principal singers were all good. Mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton sang her three roles of the Officer, Lab Doctor, and Cheevers with strength. Tenor Gary Lehman (Stathis Borans) had good volume and acted well. Daniel Okulitch was convincing in the title-role, his voice is not especially distinct but he sounded fine and he acted capably. Ruxandra Donose's voice was most impressive, her icy pierciness suited the role of Veronica Quaife.

* Tattling * 
The audience whispered during the overtures. There were a fair amount of young people, and thus there were less watch alarms than usual, I only heard one near me, albeit three times marking 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm.


The staging involved both nudity and simulated intercourse. Neither was completely tasteless, but perhaps I only think so because I was quite far from the stage.

LA Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 6-26 2008: Il Trittico
September 7-26 2008: The Fly
October 2-18 2008: Madama Butterfly
November 15- December 14 2008: Carmen
January 10-25 2009: Die Zauberflöte
February 21- March 15 2009: Das Rheingold
April 4-25 2009: Die Walküre
April 11-26 2009: Die Vögel
May 21- June 21 2009: La Traviata

Two U.S. premieres and the company's first Der Ring des Nibelungen. Quite a lot of film directors this season: William Friedkin (Il Tabarro/Suor Angelica), David Cronenberg, and Woody Allen (Gianni Schicchi). I'm most interested in hearing Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Plácido Domingo as Siegmund. I have to say I'm disappointed that LA Opera is starting Der Ring the same year as Seattle Opera and Washington National Opera, and only a year after San Francisco Opera unveils Francesca Zambello's production on the West Coast.

Press Release [PDF] | 2008-2009 Season Official Site