Lengthy ‘Wind’ blows into West End

Opera mixes it up with legit

You can say something a helluva lot faster than you can sing it. That’s just one reason tuners aren’t exactly famous for their brevity. And brevity, it turns out, is the last word anyone is using to describe London’s soon-to-open musical “Gone With The Wind.”

Trevor Nunn‘s production left the famous 3 hour and 45 minute Toronto premiere of “The Lord of the Rings” in the dust. Nunn’s first preview on April 4 had to be canceled due to an ankle injury sustained by Natasha Yvette Williams, who plays Mammy. But the following night, the curtain went up at 7:30 p.m. and came down at 11:40 p.m.: That’s 4 hours and 10 minutes.

It’s hardly a surprise. The current hardcover edition of Margaret Mitchell’s one and only novel is 1,064 pages long, and on its initial release, the movie ran 3 hours and 46 minutes.

The upshot is that the show’s production team has taken the scissors to it. By April 14, it was down to 3 hours, 40 minutes, with the following night’s preview canceled in order to put further cuts in place.

However, the clock is ticking in more ways than one. Unlike Broadway, where a show can preview for up to eight weeks, London works on tighter schedules. Nunn and company have to lock the production by press night, April 22.

Has Nunn bitten off more than he — and auds — can chew? Well, bear in mind his success staging a musical from a novel that weighed in at 1,488 pages: “Les Miserables.”

 Opera mixes it up with legit

Peter Gelb may be riding high on the theatricality of his Metropolitan Opera productions, but English National Opera got there first. It was ENO that first staged the ravishing “Madam Butterfly” by the late Anthony Minghella that put the Met into theatrical pole position. The same company premiered the Met’s newest hit “Satyagraha” in the inventive production by Improbable Theater’s director, Phelim McDermott, designer Julian Crouch and lighting designer Paule Constable.

ENO’s newly announced season is equally strong on legit talent, emphasizing opera’s innate theatricality.

Take Richard Jones, one of Britain’s most audacious directors, whose work has included London’s “Into the Woods” plus Broadway’s “La Bete” and “Titanic.” Jones has been a guest director at ENO for nearly three decades, during which he helmed a celebrated version of Prokofiev’s “Love for Three Oranges,” complete with scratch ‘n’ sniff cards.

Jones’ season opener, a double-bill of repertoire faves “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci,” is followed by Jonathan Miller relocating “La Boheme” to 1930s Paris, and Katie Mitchell pairing Henry Purcell’s greatest hit, “Dido and Aeneas,” with a new work still to be announced in a studio production at the Young Vic.

Nicholas Hytner, who began his theater career as an assistant director at ENO in the late 1970s, is represented this season with the 13th revival of his much-loved production of “The Magic Flute.”

Theatrical talking point of the season, however, may be “Riders to the Sea,” by England’s Ralph Vaughan Williams, who died 50 years ago. An adaptation of the one-act play by Irish dramatist J.M. Synge, the production features the operatic debut of Fiona Shaw. No, she hasn’t taken up singing. She’s directing.

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