âHercules vs. Vampiresâ isnât a typical concept for an opera. But that should come as no surprise: Show creator Patrick Morganelli isnât your typical opera composer, either.
A former F-14 pilot for the Navy, he became a composer after a serendipitous fist fight. But more on that in a moment.
âHercules vs. Vampiresâ is a film-meets-opera hybrid featuring world-class singers voice-syncing to the 1961 cult film âHercules in the Haunted World,â by Italian director Mario Bava. Premiered in 2010 at Opera Theater Oregon, itâs the 2017-18 season opener for Arizona Opera, with performances Oct. 21-22 at Symphony Hall in Phoenix.
âPeople always related it to âMystery Science Theater 3000â and that I was mocking the film and saying âlook at how awful this is,â and that was really not my intention at all,â the Los Angeles-born composer says. âMy intention was to treat it with the same feeling that Mario Bava was bringing to it, which is that he was trying to make an adventure film with some nuances to it but on a very low budget.â
Starring bodybuilder Reg Park as Hercules, the film follows the hero of Greek myth into the Underworld to retrieve the Stone of Forgetfulness. Christopher Lee, best known in his later years for playing the evil wizard Saruman in the âLord of the Ringsâ films, is the bad guy.
âIt was part of that huge influx of sword-and-sandal epics that started coming out in Italy in the late â50s,â Morganelli says. âBut this particular film, largely because of the director, has a unique quality to it. He shot it in anamorphic widescreen format, so it has a big impact on the audience. His visual sense was incredible, because before he was a director he was a cinematographer who did his own special effects, and you combine…