Boston, MA (Streaming: The Fall of the House of Usher)
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Boston Lyric Opera to Stream Animated Film Version of Philip Glass and Arthur Yorinks’ ‘Fall of the House of Usher’
By Chris Ruel
Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) announced the January 29 debut of a full-length animated presentation of Philip Glass and Arthur Yorinks’ “Fall of the House of Usher.”
The project, directed by film and opera director James Darrah, in collaboration with Spanish screenwriter Raúl Santos, will air exclusively on BLO’s operabox.tv. Created using hand-drawn and stop-motion animation along with curated artistic footage, the film uses Glass’ complete score and Yorink’s full libretto.
Santos’ contemporizes Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic tale of reclusive twins living in a mysterious mansion, placing the story within the mind of Luna, a mute young immigrant girl detained at the U.S./Mexican border.
“We’ve created a context for the story that feels worthy of being out in the world right now,” Darrah stated in the BLO press release. “‘Usher’ touches on issues we still grapple with today—family heritage and lineage, hidden desires, mental health, and illness. I think this unique format further enhances the intention of the opera and brings a 100-year-old story into the present day.” Darrah went on to say, “Raúl created a trio of intersecting art films. Each one amplifies, contextualizes, and enriches the others.”
In Santos’ telling, the Usher twins, and the cursed house, are figments of Luna’s imagination, with the girl relating the story through her drawings which alternate between the sweet and surreal when animated. Darrah also used stop-motion filmmaking to bring an abandoned dollhouse to life within Luna’s mind. The approach reinforces the original story’s ambiguity, capitalizing on Glass’ post-modernist music and Yorink’s obscure libretto.
In the release, Esther Nelson, BLO’s Stanford Calderwood General and Artistic Director noted how the pandemic has spurred innovation at the company, saying it was a highly creative time for the organization.
“This pandemic has demonstrated how inventive artists respond with ingenuity to a crisis. Music Director David Angus brilliantly shaped the music, remotely. Our creative team embraced the idea and design for a film version in the early days of the pandemic. Thankfully we were able to keep many of that team, and the original cast, in the transition from stage to film. I’m equally pleased about the fresh creative alliances this film has brought to us: illustrators, cinematographers, animators, and film editors are our new colleagues. BLO has always prioritized creation of new work and new productions through a robust commissioning program. This groundbreaking production opens an exciting new door for that work.”
Starting on January 29, “Usher” will be available on-demand on operabox.tv. Operabox.tv subscribers can access the film two days earlier, on Jan. 27. Operabox.tv is available at the operabox.tv website and through branded apps available on Apple, Google, Amazon and Roku platforms