Director McAnuff bridges romantic opera and Jersey pop

Tue Sep 14, 2010 8:19pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Not everyone can walk from an opera house where he is directing Gounod's "Faust" half a mile to the theater where his musical "Jersey Boys," about the Four Seasons pop group, is in the third year of its London run.

In fact, the only person who fits this description is Des McAnuff, a one-man whirligig of energy and inspiration with not a finger but a fist in every pie from musicals to plays to film and, for a second time, the rarefied air of the opera house.

"I think that I do have a very confused career and if you're kind you'd call it eclectic and if you're unkind you might call it anarchic," the 58-year-old McAnuff told Reuters at the Coliseum, home of the English National Opera.

McAnuff -- who also is artistic director of Canada's not-for-profit Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario -- has been spending a lot of time with ENO pulling together the new production of Gounod's 19th-century romantic masterpiece.

The production, about Faust's pact with the devil (aka Mephistopheles) which allows the aging and suicidal doctor to re-live his youth and seduce the innocent (but jewel-bedazzled) Marguerite, opens on Sept 18th.

It is, to put it mildly, a much further stretch directing Faust and Jersey Boys than that short walk in the West End theater district suggests, but McAnuff is taking it in stride.

"It's relatively new to me (opera), but I'm comfortable that my skill set applies, as a storyteller and as a stager," said McAnuff, whose only previous opera outing was directing Berg's relentlessly bleak "Wozzeck" for the San Diego Opera in 2007.

Here's what else he had to say about updating Faust to post-World War Two, which lets him make Faust a disenchanted physicist horrified by the atomic bomb, what it's like being at the top of one's game in many realms at once, and, given the opportunity, to deny he owns a yellow Lamborghini, races a yellow Lamborghini or owns any Lamborghini (he and his girlfriend drive Fords) -- though he is doing an opera about the late race-car driver Ayrton Senna da Silva.   Continued...