Hercules vs. Vampires
Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

The 1961 cult film Hercules in the Haunted World, directed by Italian schlockmeister Mario Bava and starring bodybuilder Reg Park as the mighty Hercules and Christopher Lee as his evil nemesis, Lycos, serves as the basis of a new opera, HERCULES VS. VAMPIRES. Composed by Patrick Morganelli (who also wrote the libretto), the opera was first performed in 2010 by Opera Theater Oregon. Now a revised version has been mounted by Los Angeles Opera in collaboration with American Cinematheque.

Sung by nine youthful singers, most of whom are members of L.A. Opera’s development corps, and played by a 21-piece orchestra conducted by Christopher Allen, the sword-and-sandal epic unfolded on a large screen suspended above the stage in a format once known as Totalscope.

Presented as part of L.A. Opera’s Off Grand initiative, which celebrates “the diversity of operatic expression,” HERCULES VS. VAMPIRES proved to be a hugely enjoyable romp through a comic-book version of Greek mythology. In addition to Hercules and Lycos, we meet such characters as Dianara, Medea, Zarathusa, Hesperide and Persephone in a story that takes place largely in Hades and involves a magic stone, the golden apple, and an army of the dead. It’s all very campy and goofy, but Morganelli’s sprightly and colorful score, plus the cast’s impassioned singing–led by baritone Kihun Yoon as Hercules–made for a light-hearted and entertaining evening.

Los Angeles Opera recently announced its 2015/16, 30th anniversary season. It will include six mainstage productions and two concerts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, with a total of 40 performances occuring in that venue, as well as 13 performances presented elsewhere through the company’s Off Grand initiative. The season opens on Sept. 12, 2015 and runs through June 19, 2016.

Among the highlights are Jake Heggie’s new opera, MOBY DICK, and the return of the double-bill of GIANNI SCHIACCHI and PAGLIACCI, directed by Woody Allen. Other major attractions include NORMA (last seen in L.A. in 1996) and MADAME BUTTERFLY, starring Anna Maria Martinez and Stefano Secco.

For tickets and information call 213-972-8001 or visit laopera.org