Opera - Tosca's new cues
John de Lancie, director of opera
You'd think it would be unnerving to sit beside a man you associate with the capricious omnipotence that repeatedly put the crew of the starship Enterprise in peril. But it turns out that John de Lancie, director of the Atlanta Opera's production of Puccini's Tosca and best-known for playing "Q" on "Star Trek," is an unassuming guy, an even-tempered, thoughtful polymath who speaks at a deliberate pace ... and is omnipotent. De Lancie spoke with me about the neglected practice of acting in opera, the art of storytelling, and the honorable out our present political leaders might crib from a suicidal prima donna.
In the movies, music is usually subservient to the acting, but in opera, the balance is often reversed, with the acting subservient to the music. It sounds like you give acting greater importance than is typical in opera.
I think the worst rep that opera has is that it's a bunch of fat people wandering around on the stage, singing in a language I don't understand, and no real moments seem to be happening. That surely is not the way that these operas were originally presented.
People sometimes call the epic science fiction stories "space operas." Is there a connection for you between what science fiction and opera can do as art forms?
I've looked at a lot of bad science fiction and been in a lot of bad science fiction, but science fiction is a canvas for which Westerns were the canvas before. They still tell stories, this is storytelling. I think that if you move away from that, you're moving away from that thing which we had since the beginning of time, which starts, "Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time ..." [In this story,] these people have created a relationship which is built on some little lies. On any other day these lies would scatter, but on this day, they all began to go in this direction. [He presses his two index fingers together.]
Are there political resonances for you in Tosca that have any relevance today?
Other than suggesting that some of our political leaders might take Tosca's approach and jump off the battlements right now to save their honor and their nation?