NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the opera
This opera owes its existence to James Bond and Bill Hinzman. In the spring of 2009, while serving as the founding managing director of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, I conceived and produced Ballet du Bond, a dance show that used John Barry’s themes for the early James Bond films to tell a story of unrequited love between the rakish 007 and the stalwart Miss Moneypenny. Having received Barry’s blessing of the idea through the intercession of a patron-saint, Ginny (Mrs. Henry) Mancini, I brought together a creative cohort of dance, theater, and media arts instructors and students from the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School. Conjuring the ghost of Ian Fleming, we set about stirring a mélange of ballet, jazz, and modern choreography, traditional stagecraft and digital scenery, spoken word, and remixed music (though Barry had graciously offered to send me his personal scores I, not having the budget to secure a 100-piece orchestra, opted to use the classic recordings). I was sure it would work, though through most of the rehearsal process the faculty seemed worried and the students confused. At the final dress rehearsal, all the seemingly disparate ingredients blended and gelled. We had a hit. The students delivered outstanding performances, the audiences raved, the choreographers crowed, and I was fulfilled. We had succeeded in creating what I, borrowing a phrase from contemporary digital culture, called a live-action mashup.
In the lobby after opening night, a tall and vaguely familiar-looking man approached me. Bill Hinzman introduced himself as a filmmaker and prototypical zombie. “Have you seen Night of the Living Dead,” he asked. I responded in the affirmative, which prompted him to thrust his face in closer to mine. “Well, don’t you recognize me?,” he demanded. “I was the zombie in the cemetery at the beginning of the film!” As the film had been made some 40 years previous, and since Hinzman did not, I am glad to report, make a habit of walking around in full zombie make-up and regalia, I was able to explain my apparent faux pas without much embarrassment. Hinzman then praised Ballet du Bond, both concept and execution. Leaning in close once more, he pitched an unexpected curve: “What do you think of turning Night of the Living Dead into a musical?”
I suppose I must have been on a bit of a high given the success of Ballet du Bond, because I responded, after only a moment’s reflection, with uncharacteristic bluntness: “Bill, I think that’s a terrible idea.” Hinzman recoiled and, while seemingly casting about for a gravestone against which to pound my head, insisted that I explain. Softening my approach, I clarified that as far as I am concerned, a “musical” means “Broadway,” and Broadway means “show tunes” and “musical-comedy.” Conversely, though I am no great fan of horror films generally, Night of the Living Dead holds a special place in my conscience. There is a certain spirit to the film that is not easily defined. I think it has something to do with its amateur quality, using that word in its best and most accurate application – something done for the pure love of doing it. I also always regarded it as an entertaining and important piece of social commentary. Released in 1968, the movie is imbued with the zeitgeist of that tumultuous period.
- Stephen Cataznarite
photo by: Fred Miller
TODD GOODMAN has been described as “one of America’s promising young composers.” His works are performed all over the world by a wide variety of players, including principal members of many major symphony orchestras—Vienna Philharmonic, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Singapore, Iceland, and Seattle Symphonies. Goodman currently serves as the Resident Composer for the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center located outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Goodman served as resident composer for the Altoona Symphony Orchestra (2002-2006), the McKeesport Symphony Orchestra (2005-2006), and the Beaver Valley Philharmonic (2006-2007). As an advocate of arts education, Goodman also serves as Lincoln Park's Chief Academic Officer. As an educator, he was also recently chosen from 30,000 nominees as a quarter-finalist for the 2014 Grammy Award for Music Education.
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STEPHEN CATANZARITE as one of the founders of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, Stephen Catanzarite served as Managing Director from 2004 to 2012. In that role, he helped lead the creation and launch of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, including overseeing the development of its arts curriculum and serving as the school’s first Dean of Arts. He is also a founder of Baden Academy Charter School, where he served as CEO from 2012 to 2014. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Stephen holds a Masters of Science in Education from Franciscan University. He currently serves as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Lincoln Learning Solutions. His first book, Achtung Baby: Meditations on Love in the Shadow of the Fall, was published worldwide by Bloomsbury in 2007. He is presently at work on a follow up to that book, and on an opera about the fall of the Berlin Wall. His favorite artistic project at Lincoln Park was 2009’s Ballet du Bond, a production that led to the creation of Night of the Living Dead –The Opera. Stephen would like to dedicate this opera to the late Bill “Zombie #1” Hinzman.
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