Composer turns zombie classic into opera
Most people love a good horror film around the scariest holiday of the year. However, you can put your copy of Nightmare on Elm Street to the side. Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School and Center will be showing Night of the Living Dead: The Opera — an adaptation of George Romero’s classic 1968 horror film — to fill your need for spook.
Zombies and opera shouldn’t mix, right? Composer Todd Goodman revealed he was hesitant to accept this idea too.
“Opera is typically a very serious genre,” said Goodman, who also serves as Artistic Director of Education for the Center, and who was chosen from 30,000 nominees as a quarterfinalist for the 2014 Grammy Award for Music Education.
However, Goodman and librettist Stephen Catanzarite put a lot of work into making sure this production was something to take seriously.
The idea was initially pitched to Catanzarite by the late Bill Hinzman, Zombie #1 in the movie, as a musical. This seemed a bit too campy to Catanzarite, whose response was, “I don’t know about a musical, Bill. But what about an opera?”
The challenge then became how to turn the film — which follows a bickering band of survivors in an abandoned farmhouse, fighting off zombie attacks — into a full-on stage piece. Goodman sketched out the opening scene in Evans City, where the movie of Night of the Living Dead was filmed, and wrote some of the other scenes on a train ride to New York City. In fact, Night of the Living Dead: The Opera, was submitted to a competition held by the Center for Contemporary Opera in in the Big Apple, and won. Along with two other shows, this production was picked to be put on stage and brought to life.
Of course, the question had to come up: how does Goodman feel about scary movies? He must like them if he’s making a whole horror opera, right? Not necessarily. Goodman confessed that he hates scary movies. More specifically, he hates slasher movies. “I’m not into the whole blood and gore for the sake of blood and gore,” he said. “I like thriller movies. I like movies that are suspenseful.”
The opera is an example of Goodman’s passion for mixing the arts. “Art is art,” he said, adding that he believes artists should experience arts outside their comfort zone. So what did he take from his first experience with the horror genre? “There’s tons of things that I’ve learned. I’ve picked up [tips] about timing, spacing. When to be patient in your work so that…when that scare happens or that joke happens, it’s happening at the right time with the right pacing,” Goodman said.
He discovered that when he doesn’t like something — like zombies — it helps to really immerse himself in it and analyze why he doesn’t like it.
“I found that if I don’t like something,” Goodman admitted, “it’s probably because I don’t understand it.”
Night of the Living Dead: The Opera will be shown in the Studio Theater at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 1. Tickets are $15 and $20, and seating is limited. Visit the Box Office from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for tickets; call (724) 576-4644, Option 2, during Box Office hours; or visit lppacenter.org to order tickets online.