Monday, June 25, 2007

The Power of Christ Compels You to See This Opera!

So apparently the LA Opera 2008/09 season is going to open with the US premiere of an opera based on The Fly. Yes, the David Cronenberg movie. I hope they include the maggot dream sequence. Anyway, I got to thinking...what if there was an operatic version of my favorite horror movie, The Exorcist?

Here's my ideal (or as close to ideal as possible; I stopped short of resurrecting the dead) cast for an operatic The Exorcist:
Chris MacNeil would be played by Frederica von Stade, given a short trip in the Wayback Machine, because, while Chris is pretty obnoxious, she shouldn't sound like a goose. Her show-stopping aria would be "Jesus Christ, won't somebody help me?!", but other highlights would include "I've been on this line for 20 minutes!", "The whole bed was rising off the ground and shaking..." and, of course, the unforgettable wailing-with-a-bloodstained-face. If a Wayback Machine proved scientifically or financially impossible, Susan Graham could step in.

Father Damien Karras would be played by Rolando "Sweaty Mr. Bean" Villazon. Villazon's turn as DesGrieux in Manon proved that he can play a conflicted priest, and he's got the eyebrows for the role. Role highlights: "I think I've lost my faith, Tom", "You're not my mother!", "Take me! Come into me!", and the unforgettable "The power of Christ compels you!" duet.

The role of Father Lankester Merrin would be taken by Simon Keenlyside in old-man makeup (just like Max von Sydow had to be in old-man makeup in the movie). Since the demon will be voiced by a bass, I think Villazon's strong tenor would mesh well with Keenlyside's lyrical baritone for the voices of good versus the heavy bass voice of Pazuzu/Captain Howdy. Also, even in old-man makeup, Keenlyside would probably look pretty hot as a priest. His arias: "He is a liar, the demon is a liar" and the climactic "I cast you out, unclean spirit!"

Detective Lieutenant William Kinderman would be sung by John Tomlinson, who could capture the gruffly kind but steely and cunning qualities that J. Lee Cobb had in the original. His aria: "Answer the question, Father Paranoia".

Casting Regan would be difficult, because she'd have to sound like a child at the beginning but a demon for the rest of the movie. My solution? To have a child, maybe a boy soprano in drag, play Regan at the beginning, but as soon the possession sets in, replace the child with an animatronic doll, and have a bass hiding in the bed doing the voice of the demon. On the other hand, there's a whole host of voices in there, so I was thinking it could be Samuel Ramey with a chorus, or, better yet, a combination of Samuel Ramey (for the wry devilishness), Robert Lloyd (for the wobbly moaning), a recording of Maria Callas played backward (for goatish melodrama), and Renée Fleming for sheer, breathy ugliness. At the end, when Father Karras tackles Regan and starts punching her, Villazon would have to wrestle with the dummy, the stage would go black, and then the child singer could rush onstage to replace the dummy and cry in the corner.

Then I got to thinking that if this was going to be put on by LA Opera, they'd undoubtedly want to raise their star-power, so maybe they could get Anna Netrebko to be Regan in the early stages of possession. Regan is always thrusting her bare vag at people near the beginning, and Netrebko obviously has no qualms about flashing pink onstage. Also, her voice is so uneven that it would sound like she had a few personalities in there. Regan/the demon's arias: "You're all gonna die up there *tinkle tinkle*", "Let Jesus fuck you!", and "Your mother sucks cocks in hell!"

In the minor roles, I would have Nathan Gunn as Father Dyer because of his bland handsomeness and pleasant but unspectacular voice. His big solo would be Father Dyer's Big Gay Idea of Heaven--"a solid white night club, with me as the head liner, for all eternity and they love me!" Countertenor Christopher Robson would be perfect as the perpetually drunk and possibly molestery Burke Dennings, since his performance as Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare proves that he has the sense of humor and leanings toward the grotesque to pull it off. His magical aria "There seems to be an alien pubic hair in my gin" would be an instant classic, followed closely by "Do you know what she did? Your cunting daughter?" (which would be lip-synched by Regan).

Heldentenor Peter Seiffert and his wife Petra Maria Schnitzer would be Karl and Willi, the MacNeil's long-suffering servants. Seiffert's arias would be "I'm Swiss!" and "See? No rats!", while Schnitzer would surely shine in "Yes, I think the urine stain is coming out". Mirella Freni could have a poignant cameo as Karras's mother.

The other roles like Sharon and the doctors could be taken by anyone, though I would insist on there being a "There's no vascular displacement" duet between the two neurologists. The music could be written by Philip Glass, who has a kind of austerely creepy style, and the whole thing could be directed by the director of the film, William Friedkin, who has directed operas for LA Opera before.

The best thing about an operatic version of The Exorcist? There are absolutely no opportunities for crappy choreography to be added in, unless they make the Spider Walk an ensemble piece.
So what do you think? Should I start drafting my letter to Plàcido Domingo?



At June 26, 2007 at 6:28 AM , Blogger Alexis said...

Excellent! I want season tickets.


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