Heads Up: The Damnation of Faust
A completely different take on Berlioz's 'legend'
Sunday 03 April 2011
What are we talking about? Terry Gilliam directs his first opera, Hector Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust, for English National Opera.
Elevator Pitch And now for something completely different for Berlioz.
Prime Movers Gilliam, the Monty Python cartoonist who graduated to directing fantastical films including Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, now turns his eye to opera. Edward Garner, the young conductor credited with breathing new life into the ENO as music director, holds the baton.
The Talent Baritone Christopher Purves is Mephistopheles (Gilliam thought he was the perfect choice because he'd sung in a pop group, Harvey & the Wallbangers). Faust is taken on by Peter Hoare, fresh from playing Larry King in Anna Nicole, while ENO regular, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice, is Marguerite.
The Early Buzz ENO has released trailers and a "quote of the day" from Gilliam, which range from sublimely ridiculous to just a bit dull ("We are in fairyland today!"; "Minefields of joy!"; "The singers were LOUD!"; "Production meeting!"). Opera blog Intermezzo picked up on some dubious design elements, however: "In the just-released trailer [Gilliam] grants a sneak peek at a swastika-plastered sketch pad, the first public whiff of his production concept."
Insider Knowledge Purves and Gilliam met at a fellow Python's project, when they both appeared in Eric Idle's Not the Messiah, an oratorio based on The Life of Brian.
It's great that... Gilliam doesn't sound too cowed by admiration or constrained by convention when it comes to staging Berlioz's opera; in an ENO interview he enthusiastically asks: "Am I the tuning fork that smashes against the rock that is Berlioz? What defines opera, what determines it?" before pointing out that Berlioz himself "certainly didn't play by the rules".
It's a shame that... ENO's poaching of directors from other disciplines doesn't always go down well; Gilliam might be seen as just another flown-in big name without the requisite musical talent (previous productions helmed by the likes of Mike Figgis, Sally Potter, Rufus Norris or Rupert Goold have all had detractors).
Hit Potential Even if it takes a critical beating, the Coliseum should still easily fill its seats for a 10-night run.
The Details The Damnation of Faust is at the London Coliseum, WC2 (eno.org), 6 May to 7 June.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 3 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Game of Thrones, season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Martin Scorsese 'in shock' after death on set of new film Silence
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures