August 25, 2006

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan directs Wagner

By Julie Mollins

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan,
renowned for award-winning movies that explore the dark sides
of human behavior, is taking a turn at helming a grand opera
with similar brooding features.

Egoyan, 46, the Egyptian-born son of Armenian parents who
migrated to Canada, has examined incest, the horrors of war and
the mysteries of fate in such deeply psychological films as
"Exotica," "The Sweet Hereafter," "Felicia's Journey" and
"Ararat." He will revisit some of those themes for an upcoming
Canadian Opera Company production of Richard Wagner's 19th
century opera "Die Walkure."

The Wagner classic, the second of the four-part epic cycle
"Der Ring des Nibelungen," is a complex tale in which
incestuous love, the will of the gods and fate combine to
advance the overall themes of the Ring Cycle.

During an interview at the Four Seasons Center for the
Performing Arts in Toronto, where a production of the entire
Ring Cycle will open for a three-week run on September 12,
Egoyan described similarities in his approach to making movies
and opera.

"In my films I am very interested in subtext and what makes
people act the way they do," he said. "I try and bring that
detail to the way I direct the opera but also the way I stage
it. The way I create visual ideas which can reinforce the
psychology of the piece."

This is not Egoyan's first foray into directing opera. He
began with a 1996 Canadian Opera Company production of
"Salome." He directed an earlier production of "Die Walkure" --
the source of Wagner's famous "Ride of the Valkyries" -- for
the company in 2004. He most recently directed the play "Eh
Joe" in London's West End.

When the Toronto-based director was first presented with
the opportunity to direct "Die Walkure," he was full of doubt,
he said, because he could read music but at the time had no
background in opera.

"It's that doubt and that fear that actually creates an
excitement," he said. "And I think if you don't feel that, then
maybe there's something a little bit wrong. You have to be able
to rise to the material."

The director cites the central conflict in the Ring as
being "the power of love versus the love of power -- that's the
theme that comes up over and over again because in order to get
power you have to relinquish love."

The narrative of the Ring Cycle, which was written by
Wagner between 1848 and 1874, was inspired by a German tale and
Norse legends.

An emphasis on the bloodlust and horror of war will be a
major focus in the Egoyan production.

"Wagner was not really criticizing the war machine," Egoyan
said, "and I think this production is showing quite explicitly
the horrifying results of that approach where war becomes an
economy unto itself."