At the press conference prior to “The Fly” opening, director David Cronenberg went to some length to insist that the Howard Shore opera he was about to direct was far different from the 1986 film he had previously helmed. He could have gone further, since the new version of “The Fly” is far different from an opera, too, offering little with regard to drama and a good deal less in the music. In brief, “The Fly” is a turkey.
What’s wrong? You name it. Shore’s musical abilities served him well enough in the film, and spectacularly well in his score for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but in the opera house his efforts come across as a bland, neutral wash of undulating sound not inclined to rise to high dramatic moments. “My flesh travels to yours,” sings the heroine Veronica to the scientist Seth Brundle at a moment of eloquent lovemaking, but the music shows no sense of travel, much less of flesh.
Why “The Fly”? There is simply no matchup here between the film’s vivid gadgetry and designer Dante Ferretti’s washing machines passed off as Dr. Brundle’s teleporters. Even setting aside vivid memories of Jeff Goldblum’s virtuoso stint in the Cronenberg film, there also is no matchup in the opera between David Henry Hwang’s vivid description of the hero’s gradual disintegration from human to insect form and the visible decline of David Okulitch to a stooped figure of the same size.
Canadian bass-baritone Okulitch sings a credible Dr. Brundle and manages a couple of backflips to demonstrate his bodily metamorphosis (although a double handles the more strenuous stuff). Romanian soprano Roxandra Donose’s Veronica has her moments of shrillness, and Gary Lehman, as Veronica’s ex, outshouts them both. On the podium, Placido Domingo is entrusted with trying to impart the spark of life to this lifeless lump.