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Big-Name Directors Create Buzz at L.A. Opera

Daniel Okulitch, before ­becoming The Fly

Marie-Noelle RobertDaniel Okulitch, before ­becoming The Fly

L.A. Opera begins its 2008-2009 season with a humdinger, all right. No boring old Bohèmes or Traviatas here: It’s time for something new. Really new. Like, The Exorcist meets Sister Angelica, or Gianni Schicchi goes Bananas. It’s all in a daring double bill of Puccini’s one-act trilogy Il Trittico and the U.S. premiere of Howard Shore’s The Fly. Il Trittico might not be so unusual an offering, except that William Friedkin will direct two of the operas — Suor Angelica, about a nun with a distressing secret; and Il Tabarro (The Cloak), the story of a tragic love triangle — and none other than Woody Allen will try a hand at Gianni Schicchi, the classic farce famous for the touching aria “O Mio Babbino Caro.” Friedkin isn’t exactly new to the opera scene; you might have caught his LA Opera productions of Bluebeard’s Castle, Ariadne auf Naxos and Gianni Schicchi. But it’s a brave new world for Allen, who had been courted for years by Placido Domingo.

“Placido and I have talked on and off over the last 20 years about a number of operas, but I was very reluctant because I don’t want to disappoint everybody, which I’m sure I will,” Allen said in a recent interview. Woody finally agreed to do Schicchi partly because “it’s funny,” and also because he figured that by the time everyone got around to mounting a production, he wouldn’t have to make good on his promise because he’d be dead. The fates must have a Woody Allen sense of humor, because they didn’t let him off the hook. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he admits, “but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.”

Il Trittico plays in repertory with The Fly, the first operatic adaptation of the sci-fi film classic about a scientist who inadvertently mutates into a giant man-fly when an experiment goes awry. It’s appropriately directed by David Cronenberg, director of the 1986 movie version, with music by the great film composer Howard Shore, whose scores for The Lord of the Rings trilogy won no less than three Oscars and four Grammys. Casts include Mark Delavan, Salvatore Licitra and Anja Kampe in Il Tabarro; Sondra Radvanovsky and Larissa Diadkova in Suor Angelica; Thomas Allen, Laura Tatulescu and Salmir Pirgu in Gianni Schicchi; and Daniel Okulitch, Ruxandra Donose and Gary Lehman in The Fly.Il Trittico opens Sat., Sept. 6, 6 p.m., and runs thru Sept. 26. The Fly opens Sun., Sept 7, 2 p.m., and runs thru Sept. 27. (213) 972-8001. See classical listings for details.