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Opera meets ‘Mystery Science Theater’ in ‘Hercules vs. Vampires’ in new season

The Arizona Republic

Kerry Lengel

Medium: Print

Swords and sandals will meet tenors and sopranos when Arizona Opera kicks off its 2017-18 season with “Hercules vs. Vampires.” It’s a film-opera hybrid that has world-class singers voice-syncing to the 1961 cult film “Hercules in the Haunted World,” by Italian director Mario Bava.

This bit of high-class kitsch is the brainchild of composer Patrick Morganelli. It was commissioned by Opera Theater Oregon, which premiered it in 2010.

Arizona Opera will perform “Hercules vs. Vampires” Oct. 15 at the Fox Theatre in Tucson and Oct. 21-22 at Symphony Hall in Phoenix. It’s the latest example of the company’s recent focus on adventurous new work to go along with the familiar classics.

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“It’s a way to get people interested in opera who may never have thought about it before, and to reach into the millennial audience,” says Arizona Opera general director Joseph Specter. “If you like ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000,’ it’s something you might try on.”

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The opera announced its 2017-18 season last week. “Hercules” won’t be part of the main-stage subscription series, which features some of opera’s greatest hits. Here’s the lineup:

“Tosca” — Puccini’s tale of a tragic love triangle set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Nov. 11-12 at Tucson Music Hall; Nov. 17-19 at Symphony Hall.

“Candide” — The comic operetta based on the satirical novel by Voltaire, with music by “West Side Story” composer Leonard Bernstein. Jan. 27-28, 2018, at Tucson Music Hall; Feb. 2-4, 2018, at Symphony Hall.

“The Barber of Seville” — The Rossini comedy is a sort of prequel to Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” — they feature the same roguish hero. March 3-4, 2018, at Tucson Music Hall; March 9-11, 2018, at Symphony Hall.

“Das Rheingold” — The first opera in Wagner’s epic “Ring” trilogy. April 6-8, 2018 at Symphony Hall; April 14-15, 2018, at Tucson Music Hall.

Season tickets are on sale now at or by phone at 602-266-7464 (Phoenix) and 520-293-4336 (Tucson).

Before the new season starts, Arizona Opera will keeps its doors open over the summer with an Opera & Gelato Film Fest, a family-friendly series featuring screenings of recent performances at La Scala, the famed opera house in Milan. Tickets are free, but reservations are required. The lineup: “The Magic Flute,” 2 p.m. June 25; “La Fanciulla del West,” 2 p.m. July 23; and “Aida,” 2 p.m. Aug. 20.