Horror flick ‘The Fly’ to mutate into an opera

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Opera and the Theatre du Chatelet of Paris will co-produce “The Fly,” a new opera based on director David Cronenberg’s 1986 horror film about a scientist who mutates into a human-fly hybrid, executives of the two artistic entities are to announce today in Paris.

The opera, to be directed by Cronenberg with music by Academy Award-winning film composer Howard Shore and a libretto by playwright and Los Angeles native David Henry Hwang, is scheduled to have its world premiere in Paris on July 1, 2008, then arrive in the U.S. on Sept. 7 as the opening offering of L.A. Opera’s 2008-09 season.

“The Fly,” to be inspired by the 1957 George Langelaan short story as well as the Cronenberg film, will feature set designs by Dante Ferretti and costumes by Cronenberg’s sister, Denise Cronenberg, a frequent collaborator on his movies.

L.A. Opera General Director Placido Domingo said in the fall of 2004 that the company hoped to bring together Cronenberg, Shore and Hwang for “The Fly,” which was originally planned for the 2007 season but was delayed because of scheduling issues. Domingo now plans to conduct the premieres.


While “The Fly” represents Cronenberg’s and Shore’s first foray into opera, it is not the first time they have collaborated. Shore has scored 11 of Cronenberg’s films, including “The Fly” and “A History of Violence.”

Both Cronenberg and Shore also have a previous connection with Hwang: Cronenberg directed the film and Shore wrote the score for the 1993 movie version of Hwang’s Tony Award-winning play “M. Butterfly.”

Hwang has a history with opera as librettist for Philip Glass’ “The Voyage,” Bright Sheng’s “Silver River” and Osvaldo Golijov’s “Ainadamar.” In an interview Thursday, Hwang said the story of the tragic man-insect in “The Fly” represents another facet in his exploration of identity confusion, a theme in both “M. Butterfly” and his revisitation of “Flower Drum Song.”

“I thought it would be fun to do an opera based on ‘The Fly,’ focusing more on the Kafkaesque, metaphysical, transformative themes than in the movie,” Hwang said. “The film is quite operatic, really. There are a lot of special effects, and a certain amount of blood, and that may be what, initially, drew a lot of people to the movie. But David managed to use that story to get to something deeper ... more human -- the kind of big issues that are suitable for opera.”