Elephant Man Opera Gets U.S. Premiere in St. Paul

Classic Arts News   Elephant Man Opera Gets U.S. Premiere in St. Paul
The Minnesota Opera presents the American premiere of Laurent Petitgirard's Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, a 2002 opera based on the life of the disfigured 19th-century Englishman, starting tonight.

Petitgirard's opera has a French-language libretto by Eric Nonn. It premiered at Prague's State Opera House and was later seen in Nice, where it was filmed for French television.

"This opera tells the story of the Elephant Man from his own perspective, rather than from the doctor's as did the famous David Lynch movie starring John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins," said Minnesota Opera artistic director Dale Johnson. "I think this is highly appropriate, because ultimately, it is the story of a beautiful soul. It's the characters on the outside that distort that reality, seeing only his disease."

According to Johnson, director and choreographer Doug Varone's staging relies on "movement rather than disfiguring makeup to portray this spirit."

The cast includes David Walker in the title role and Christopher Schaldenbrand as Frederick Treves, the doctor who befriended Merrick, as well as members of Varone's dance troupe.

The production team also includes assistant director Peter Kozma, set designer Christine Jones, costume designer James Schuette, lighting designer Jane Cox, and wig and makeup artist Tom Watson. Antony Walker, the co-director of Australia's Pinchgut Opera, is the conductor.

Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man runs though May 21 at the Ordway Center in St. Paul.

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