Long Beach Opera, Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
Professional singer and music professor Dr. P tries to shake hands with a parking meter and describes a rose as"a convoluted red form with a linear green attachment." A man who sees, but does not see, Dr. P suffers from visual agnosia. Unable to recognize objects and faces (including his wife’s), he finds a way to make sense of his world through music. LBO goes site-specific again with four performances of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat between June 16 and June 24, 2012 at the EXPO Warehouse in Long Beach, CA. Pre-opera talks will be held one hour before performance times.
This neurological opera (The Hat, for short) is based on an actual case study in the 1985 book of the same name, written by renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. British minimalist composer Michael Nyman, best known for hisscore to Jane Campion’s film The Piano, saw operatic possibilities in the story.
Dr. Sacks states, “The real hero in The Hat is surely music – the power of music to organize and integrate, to knit or re-knit a shattered world into sense… opera turns out to be the perfect medium: the theme seems pre-ordained for the form.”
Known for being theatrically creative, fearless and illuminating, director David Schweizer is equally at home in Los Angeles and New York. Previous LBO projects include Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers (1996), Pena’s adaptation of Purcell’s La Indian Queen (1998), Adès’ Powder Her Face (2001)and the world premiere of Vivaldi’s Motezuma (2009).
Schweizer has been eager to take on the story of Dr. P for many years and recalls, “I was totally fascinated by Dr. Sacks’ book when it came out in the 80's and dreamed then of somehow shaping the material as theater.” He adds, “Michael Nyman's rhapsodic score brings a heartbreaking immediacy to this story of a brilliant mind gone mysteriously awry. The piece has everything – deeply felt emotions, humor, and a haunting portrait of the fine line between mental illness and genius. Plus the intimacy of it, just three characters, affords a kind of behavioral detail that is not often seen on opera stages. I hope that audiences will really FEEL what these people are going through and what they DISCOVER.”
Michael Nyman – Composer (b.23 March 1944) - is a British minimalist composer, pianist, librettist, musicologist, and the leader of the Michael Nyman Band. Perhaps best known in the United States for his multi-platinum selling score to Jane Campion’s film The Piano as well as his scores for Gattaca and many Peter Greenaway’s films, Nyman states he was drawn to the case study of fellow musician Dr. P because he was a man who “requires music as a lifeline, cue, clue, cure…”
Dr. Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author, was born in Britain in 1933 and is currently Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University, the author of 10 books and working on his 11th. His case studies have provided the basis for the films Awakenings and The Music Never Stopped. Dr. Sacks himself suffers from prosopagnosia, a condition which impairs the recognition of faces.
David Schweizer – Director - got his start as Robert Brustein's protégé while still at the Yale Drama School and, upon graduation, worked in New York under the auspices of Joseph Papp. He has spent almost forty years directing operas, plays, musicals and performance works for such organizations as the Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, The Evidence Room, the Cultural Project, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, Boston Lyric Opera, to name only a few, and has opened shows in London, Budapest, Belgrade, Sarajevo and Poland. Schweizer says he is happy to be back at LBO, which he says, “from its inception, has always been the most adventurous and exciting presenter of opera theater in America, plain and simple. As a director, I am always thrilled to work here - both for the challenge of the projects and the unconditional support of the most vivid theatrical approach possible.”