L.A. Opera to revive 1961 Italian cult film 'Hercules' at the Chandler

David Ng
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times
L.A. Opera will revive the 1961 Italian cult film 'Hercules in the Haunted World' with shows at the Chandler

Director Mario Bava's 1961 movie, "Hercules in the Haunted World," is a sword-and-sandal adventure with low-budget production values, atrocious acting and even worse dubbing.

All the more reason to love it, in an ironic, postmodern way, of course. In a re-imagining of the Italian cult film, Los Angeles composer Patrick Morganelli has redubbed the entire movie as an opera that will be performed live as part of a collaboration between American Cinematheque and L.A. Opera.

Starting Thursday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, singers and an orchestra will perform live during screenings of the movie. The English-language opera, titled "Hercules vs. Vampires," was commissioned by Opera Theater Oregon in Portland, where it was seen five years ago.

Morganelli, who lives in Pasadena, said in a recent interview that he has substantially revised the opera for the L.A. performances.

"I completely re-orchestrated the score to take advantage of a bigger orchestra and knowing we were going to have a certain amount of rehearsal time," he said.

"There's about 10 minutes that I was honestly not happy with, so I completely tossed it and wrote new material."

The 74-minute opera wasn't an easy commission largely because it involved calibrating the score and vocals to preexisting work. It also requires that opera performers, who are used to being expressive on stage, synchronize their voices to the movie.

"It goes against the grain of what singers are trained to do," Morganelli said.

The project also was challenging from a legal perspective. Organizers initially believed that the Bava movie was in the public domain, but they later learned that it had reentered copyright.

After much searching, they learned that Frank Mayor, an L.A.-based producer and head of the media company Cinevision Global, had acquired the rights to the movie a little more than a decade ago.

"A lot of times it's unclear when an older movie is in the public domain," Mayor said.

As it turned out, Morganelli's legal representatives had worked with Mayor before and were able to agree on a licensing arrangement by late 2014.

"Hercules vs. Vampires," starring bodybuilder Reg Park and horror-movie staple Christopher Lee, will run for just four performances.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT


'Hercules vs. Vampires'

Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: From $24

Info: (213) 972-8001, www.laopera.org

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times