[When I first saw reports last summer about an opera to be written about
the Libyan ruler, I figured the story will go away. Apparently, ENO
won't let it.]
Gaddafi the opera is ailing ENO's latest ticket ploy
By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent / The Telegraph
English National Opera is resorting to shock tactics, once
again, to fill its seats. Works in the new season will include
one about lesbians and another about the life and times of
Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.
Gaddafi, a working title, is written by the Asian Dub Foundation
(ADF), a politically radical ethno-punk band from London. It
is to be directed by Peter Sellars, an American who once set
Mozart on a US freeway.
In the long history of surprises at ENO - singers seated on
lavatories, scratch and sniff cards smelling of farts, and
gang rape - Gaddafi may beat them all.
It will also put the career of Sean Doran, the company's new
artistic director, who must improve ENO's fortunes, on the
His first season, which starts in September, opens with
an adaptation of the The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, a
claustrophobic, sinister and sadistic play followed by a film,
both by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the German writer and
Fassbinder's story is of lesbian love, jealousy and passion
set in a fashion studio. Petra von Kant is a self-absorbed
fashion designer who meets a naive young model with whom she
With the Royal Opera going from success to success, ENO has
been struggling to find a raison d'etre.
In recent years, it has been on the verge of bankruptcy and
two years ago audiences slumped to 62 per cent capacity.
Mr Doran, who previously ran the Perth Festival in Australia,
said yesterday: "It doesn't matter what genre or style a
composer comes from, it matters if they have something to
The Gaddafi opera, according to ENO, will be "an examination
of the creation of a myth" and the relationship between the
Middle East and the West.
In another piece of radical thinking Anthony Minghella, the
director of The English Patient, will direct Madam Butterfly,
his first opera.
Mr Doran's vision has divided opera critics. One said: "It's
commercial suicide - so many expensive new productions of
little-known works and just one Verdi and one Mozart. It's
doomed and it's going to cost a fortune."
But another was more optimistic: "It looks strong. He's
trying to get new audiences and it deserves to work."
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