In 1986, filmmaker David Cronenberg made his mark on the seventh art with The Fly, a science-fiction horror tale about renegade scientist Seth Brundle, whose teleportation experiment goes horribly awry when a fly enters his telepod.
The film was a box-office success, but Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore were left with a sense that the story was destined for another medium. Critics hailed the score as "operatic," and Cronenberg saw the themes lending themselves to the stage. He recalls thinking that "underneath all the technology and the sci-fi stuff, there's a very powerful, scary story of loss, disintegration and decay."
Now his ruminations have become reality. From July 2-13 at Paris' Théâtre du Châtelet (and then Sept. 7-27 at Los Angeles Opera), movie fans and opera buffs alike will be scrambling for tickets to The Fly, a sci-fi musical mutation of the film, scored by Shore and directed by Cronenberg. "I think there's a desire in the world of opera to modernize," says the director. Taking on the challenge are noted talents from screen and stage: special effects and stage design are by Oscar winners Stephan Dupuis and Dante Ferretti, Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang wrote the libretto, and celebrated tenor Plácido Domingo is conducting.
Shore's score shines with moments of great beauty before descending into atonal darkness to parallel Brundle's transformation from man to insect. The opera is "respectful of the past, but very much a 21st century work," Shore says. By the time the curtain closes to a triumphant elegy for the Brundle-fly, the audience may find itself hearing something more: the birth cry of an entirely new operocinematic creature.