Arts, Culture & Media

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Remember the 1986 film The Fly, by David Kronenberg? Or the 1958 version, with Vincent Price? Well the mad scientist at the center of the story, Seth Brundle, has just sprouted wings again. This time The Fly has landed on stage in Paris . . . as an opera. A serious opera. Placido Domingo is directing the orchestra. The score is by Canadian Howard Shore, of Lord of the Rings fame. It's classical, it's controversial and it's gory. The World's Gerry Hadden caught one of the first performances at Paris's Chatelet theater.

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Listen to the Story.

Hadden: When seeing an opera, it helps to know the story beforehand. The Fly is no different. So here goes: Girl meets boy. Girl and boy fall in love. Boy morphs into housefly. Body parts start falling off. Girl kills him.

It's a creepy story, and composer Howard Shore delivers creepiness from the start.

The curtain opens on Dr. Seth Brundle's destroyed lab. Amidst the trash and the broken teleport pods, intrepid reporter Veronica Quaife recounts Brundle's tragic tale .

Make no mistake. This IS classic tragedy: the story of a man whose ambition drives him to the pinnacle of success, then pushes him over the edge. Way over the edge.

Brundle, Quaife, and "the machine"

In this scene Brundle tries to impress Veronica Quaife by teleporting a cute little monkey. Instead he transforms it into a pile of red mush and bones. A distraught Brundle swivels the telepod so everyone in the audience can see its gory contents.

When I touch the living, he sings, I only bring death. Heavy stuff, but there are some cheeky moments too. Like when Brundle rushes on stage singing Help me, Help me! He's having trouble opening a wine bottle. That's a wink to the finale of the 1958 film, when a Brundle -- reduced to a tiny human head on a fly's body -- is about to be eaten by a spider.

Which leads us to Brundle's really big mistake -- teleporting himself -- and accidentally splicing his genetic sequence with a fly's. The operatic Brundle goes on to snap a tenor's arm in two in a bar, make voracious fly-love to any soprano he can get his hands on. And of course sprout thick black fly-hairs. Kronenberg uses an unseen chorus to chronicle Brundle's physical collapse .

His fingernails are oozing white puss, they chant. His teeth and jaw have fallen off. Desperate, Brundle tries to take Quaife on a little teleport honeymoon . . . but she escapes.

Brundle has turned into a monstrosity

When the telepod opens for the last time Brundle has been unbundled. He's lying in a pool of red muck, a hideous cross between something like an inside out anaconda and a plucked ostrich. All this proves too much for Quaife who finally pumps a couple of bullets into the beast.

When the opera ends the crowd cheers enthusiastically. Granted this isn't your typical Parisian opera crowd.

An American named Pamela Levy caught the show from the mezzanine. She called it a mind-blower.

Levy: "I saw the movie many years ago. It been on French TV again this week. But I purposely didn't watch it again to be ready for all the surprises tonight. The opportunity to see the greatest tenor in the world, Placido Domingo conducting the orchestra. I think it just shows dedication to the arts here in France."

Placido Domingo

Hadden: French critics have been less kind to The Fly. Le Figaro's critic said he was so bored he began to suspect he'd been bitten by a sleep-inducing Tse-Tse fly.... The cast wasn't surprised by that sort of high-brow beating, said Brundle under-study Laurent Alvaro after the performance.

Alvaro: "They criticized the music, the orchestration , the libretto and so on. It was expected. I suppose because celebrities like Domingo and Kronenberg are involved, the snobby side of Paris has no choice but to slam us."

Hadden: The Fly has finished its Paris run. It alights for Los Angeles in September, for its U.S. debut.

For The World I'm Gerry Hadden, Paris