Flying saucers over Bayreuth! Terrors unspeakable descend upon the Philharmonic! Ten words I never thought I’d write. But Plan 9 from space is turned into an opera.
The legendary and legendary 1957 cult film – to which Tim Burton paid homage in his Oscar-winning 1994 feature film Ed Wood starring Johnny Depp schedule 9 director — gets the classical music treatment courtesy of Thai composer and B-movie fanatic Somtow Sucharitkul.
Plan 9 from Space: A Truly Grand Opera by Somtow Sucharitkul is currently in the libretto phase. Rehearsals will begin for real next year. Sucharitkul plans to release a teaser “suite from the opera” next fall and premiere the full opera in 2024. Torsten Neumann, director of the Oldenburg Film Festival, Germany’s leading indie film festival, produces.
“schedule 9 is of course celebrated as the worst photo ever taken and a cultural icon,” said Somtow. “Film buffs have learned all the rules by heart. I intend to compose the score in the spirit of Ed Wood – with utmost seriousness and high moral intent, as befits the lofty subject of aliens saving humanity from itself – so timely in these, er, times.
“It is of course not our intention to produce the ‘worst opera’ in history’, says Neumann, ‘quite the contrary. The true spirit of schedule 9 stems from the complete sincerity of Ed Wood’s vision and the fact that no form of incapacity, or lack of money, or accidents like the star dropping dead before the shooting started [which happened to planned Plan 9 star Bela Lugosi] could dampen his optimism and faith. In a way, it is a metaphor for all filmmakers and their multifaceted visions.”
Sucharitkul has the right classical credentials. One of Thailand’s foremost composers, his work encompasses Requiem: In Memoriam 9/11 — commissioned by the government of Thailand as a gift to the victims of 9/11 — and original operas, including Helena Citronovaabout a Holocaust survivor, composed for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, currently playing in repertoire at the Hof Theater in Germany, and The Silent Princea “Bollywood opera” about the Buddha’s past lives, the first in a planned series of ten operas, which first opened in Houston and then played in Bangkok, Brno and Bayreuth.
You can watch Sucharitkul’s trailer Helena Citronova below.
But Sucharitkul has a dirty secret: he likes bad movies. He spent the ’80s and ’90s in Hollywood, reinventing himself as a science fiction writer and occasional screenwriter for B-movie legends Roger Corman and Brian Yuzna. He even directed one: the 1989 straight-to-video horror title The laughing deadrecently re-released in a 4K restoration Blu-Ray by Vinegar Syndrome.
“Funny how [my film] has gone from universally panned to cult classic in just four decades,” jokes Sucharitkul.
Last year, Sucharitkul wrote and performed The Maestro: a symphony of terror, a Thai horror homage in which a frustrated classical music conductor (Sucharitkul) goes insane and begins slaughtering his students. “It’s actually Mr. Holland’s opusmeets The Texas Chainsaw massacreSucharitkul says.
The film will have its world premiere at the Oldenburg Film Festival, Germany’s answer to Sundance, in 2021. Sucharitkul brought along his youth orchestra Siam Sinfonietta, whose members play his unsuspecting victims in The maestroto Oldenburg, where they performed music for the film.
Sucharitkul’s students are also featured in this year’s awards season contender Tar. The Siam Sinfonietta is the orchestra that performs in the final scene of the film. Sucharitkul was a musical advisor to the film.
“I have composed epic operas, written trilogies (often accidentally spilling over into more than three parts), and a novel that made the Horror Writer’s Association’s ‘All-time top forty’ list [1974’s Vampire Junction]… but I honestly say that an opera adaptation of schedule 9 will be the summary of my life’s work,” says Sucharitkul.
schedule 9 won’t be the first movie to get the operatic treatment. Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore adapted his score from David Cronenberg’s 1986 film The fly in an opera in two acts, with a libretto by David Henry Hwang, in 2008. It premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The American composer Jake Heggie became the winner of the best picture of Tim Robbins in 1995 Walking Dead man in a 2010 opera, with a libretto by playwright Terrence McNally, which premiered at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.
But given the source material, it’s safe to say so schedule 9the opera, will be unlike anything classical music has ever seen.
“I will not use a single word in the libretto that is not directly from Ed Wood’s pen,” says Sucharitkul. “Whether Bela Lugosi’s character will make a plaintive, tragic aria, when he was silent (not to mention dead) throughout the film’s production…that will be a fun Easter egg to come.”