A – Z Guide: F
France’s First Lady
Carla Bruni, the former supermodel and current wife of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is also the most visible member of the nouvelle chanson movement, a new generation of singer-songwriters following in the tradition of Serge Gainsbourg. Bruni’s seductive 2003 debut album, Quelqu’un m’a dit, introduced her whispery half-sung, half-spoken style, gentle guitar playing, and witty, sometimes risqué, lyrics. “J’en connais”—in which she declares that much to her mother’s chagrin, she has a man “in every port”—does nothing to dispel her reputation as a man-eater. (Faites attention, Monsieur Sarkozy!) On her recently released second album, No Promises, she performs her own arrangements of Yeats, Dickinson, Auden, and Dorothy Parker texts, version anglaise.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. So went the memorable tagline for David Cronenberg’s 1986 film The Fly. A remake of the 1958 original starring Vincent Price, it tells the tale of a scientist who inadvertently mixes up his DNA with that of a fly and metamorphoses into a ghastly human-insect hybrid. More cult hit than classic, the movie is nonetheless getting new life—as an opera, directed by Cronenberg himself.
The Fly the opera will have its world première at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet in July and then will travel to the Los Angeles Opera in September. The music is by prolific film composer Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings) and the libretto by David Henry Hwang, who wrote the screenplay for Cronenberg’s 1993 M. Butterfly. And this marks the opera-directing debut for Cronenberg, who has reemerged in the Hollywood spotlight with his real-life thriller films Eastern Promises and A History of Violence.
Leaps from the silver screen to the operatic stage are rare (Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, currently being adapted by composer Poul Ruders and the Royal Danish Theatre, is one exception), and The Fly is arguably the first true sci-fi opera. But the choice of this flawed relic of eighties culture seems right on, given the current obsession with that decade’s fashion, art, and music.
Plácido Domingo, general director of the L.A. Opera, which commissioned the work, has acknowledged it’s a risk. Still, with sets by Oscar winner and Fellini favorite Dante Ferretti, who recently put Johnny Depp into a Victorian Gothic underworld in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, it will be hard to think of this show as just another night at the opera.
At least two museums are getting a jump on the centennial of the Futurist Manifesto, published by F. T. Marinetti in February 1909, with exhibitions on the movement: the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow (through June) and the Centre Pompidou in Paris (October 15 through January 26, 2009).