An Inconvenient TruthRemember -- you read it here first! In a feature on Olga Neuwirth’s Lost Highway, from August 10, 2007, I predicted that the trend of operas based on movies was about to take off. This doesn’t count operas based on movies based on pre-existing literature -- that list is way too long to begin to enumerate, but a few of the projects currently in the works include Il Postino (Osvaldo Golijov), The Fly (Howard Shore, composer of the original soundtrack for David Cronenberg's 1986 version), and Brokeback Mountain (Charles Wuorinen [!]). The film-derived opera is gaining steam, though; Lost Highway, for instance, has been garnering broad acclaim for its multiple international productions. The most recently announced project is something of a shocker: an opera based on Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. (Gore also wrote a book, An Inconvenient Truth, but it was conceived as a companion piece for the film and was released after the film’s Sundance premiere.)

Giorgio BattistelliMilan’s La Scala has commissioned Giorgio Battistelli to write the opera for its 2011 season. Battistelli is as much an uncompromising modernist as Wuorinen (check out the sound samples below), but uncompromising modernism does seem to be a better fit with Gore’s chilling documentary than with Annie Proulx’s wrenching romantic tragedy. In any case, either composer should produce something more bracing than the tepid semi-lyrical meandering that characterizes too much modern opera.

A student of Stockhausen and Kagel, both creators with an affinity for drama, Battistelli has plenty of experience with opera; he’s currently artistic director of Arena di Verona, and has been composer-in-residence at the Antwerp Opera and the Düsseldorf Opera. Battistelli also has the distinction of writing one of the earliest operas based on a film, his 1992 Teorema, after the 1968 film by Pier Paolo Pasolini. (Intriguing footnote: Like Gore, Pasolini developed his material into a book that was released about the same time as the film.) Besides using librettos derived from traditionally narrative works by writers like Mary Shelley, Shakespeare, and Jules Verne, Battistelli has written an opera based on Diderot’s Encyclopedia, so he may well be the composer with the chops and the nerve to tackle An Inconvenient Truth.

Battistelli: Frau Frankenstein - Birth

Battistelli: Frau Frankenstein - Death and Memory

Battistelli: Experimentum Mundi (the Diderot opera)