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Lars Von Trier's 'Dancer in the Dark' Inspires 'Selma Jezková' Opera

Friday, July 29, 2011

Carl Philip Levin and Ylva Kihlberg performing in 'Selma Jezkova' Carl Philip Levin and Ylva Kihlberg performing in "Selma Jezkova" (Stephanie Berger)

On Friday night, for one night only, a dancer in the dark will become a singer on the stage. The tragic 2000 Lars Von Trier film "Dancer in the Dark," which featured the Icelandic pop star Bjork and the French heartthrob Catherine Deneuve, has inspired an opera that debuts at Lincoln Center tonight. Both the film and the opera tell the story of a struggling Czech factory worker pinching pennies to keep her son from going blind.

The Danish composer Poul Ruders wrote the opera inspired by Trier's film, which is called "Selma Jezková" after the film's main character. The Royal Danish Opera and Orchestra will perform the work.

Ruders said he saw "Dancer in the Dark" with his wife in Copenhagen.

"We were both devastated, everybody was sobbing," he said. "I said to my wife that this is the ultimate, succulent morsel of operatic material."

Washington Post opera critic Anne Midgette said using a film as source material for an operatic work was good for business, especially at a time when other opera companies like the New York City Opera are scaling back.

"What you're getting is a reflection of the fear of the people who have to market new opera," Midgette said, "that audiences are going to be frightened off by this unfamiliar new weird thing in a genre they don't like to begin with."

The Lincoln Center Festival runs through Aug. 5.

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