Tan Dun will be in China, where he is the official composer of the 2008 Olympics, until the day before “The Gate,” his over-the-top music-theater work, opens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, but two of Brooklyn’s cultural titans are making sure the show goes off without a hitch.
Joseph Melillo, BAM’s executive producer, and Michael Christie, the artistic director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, are both hard at work on the production which opens on Wednesday, Dec. 5.
And Christie has a most unusual role. Beyond his normal duties of conducting the orchestra, Christie will be an actor in the show, which follows three women who committed suicide for love — including one Juliet Capulet — as they plead for rebirth at the Gate of Judgment.
“Acting is part of the performance, but I wouldn’t say that I was drawn more to it or scared of it more,” Christie told GO Brooklyn. “I think it will be fun, and I’ll enjoy dealing with actors and the theatrical side. It will be an interesting, new thing for me. I did acting in high school, but nothing to include in my bio.”
The conductor, who seems to have stars in his eyes — “If I could do it well enough, one of my favorite roles [to take on] would be Hannibal Lecter” — will be joined on stage not only by his orchestra, but also by three singers, puppets and a video installation. “The Gate” (which also features the characters Yu Ji, heroine of the Peking opera, “Farewell My Concubine,” and Koharu, courtesan in the Japanese epic, “The Love Suicides at Amijima”) is a project that Melillo said will truly showcase the scope of BAM’s “Next Wave.”
“The ‘Next Wave’ festival has always been a platform for responding to hybrid forms. On one hand with dance-theater and on the other side of the spectrum with music-theater,” Melillo said. “ ‘The Gate’ is not a symphonic piece, it’s a music-theater work. It’s about music, live video and the compilation of singers, puppetry, video, the orchestra and the participation, verbally, of the conductor. I wanted to go out with a flame.”
As the final show of this year’s “Next Wave” festival, the production should do just that. And with the Philharmonic’s season just gearing up — it’s first official concert of the 2007-2008 season will be “Painters of Sound: Corigliano and Berlioz” on Feb. 2 — Christie said the show will serve as a strong indicator of what it has to offer.
“It’s definitely indicative of the direction we have been going in,” he said. “For years, we’ve been engaged in multimedia presentations, whether with theater or dance companies, so it’s something we feel very comfortable doing. Our musicians are very flexible with being asked to perform while there are other artistic endeavors going on. For our next concert, we’ll be having a theatrical presentation, and we’re planning multimedia fare. It’s prevalent through the season.”
While both Christie and Melillo agreed that this production is a must-see for fans of both institutions, what’s unclear is whether the conductor plans to continue moonlighting as an actor. If he does, it seems, there will always be a home for him at BAM.
“Michael Christie has flair and a style,” said Melillo. “He’s enthusiastic and emotionally committed; there is an electricity that comes across on stage. He’ll be a terrific actor.”
The Brooklyn Academy of Music and Brooklyn Philharmonic present Tan Dun’s “The Gate” at 7:30 pm on Dec. 5, 7 and 8 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene). Tickets are $20-$60. For information, call (718) 636-4100 or visit www.bam.org.
©2007 Community News Group
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