Terry Gilliam directs Benvenuto Cellini at ENO

Terry Gilliam and the Pythons (with Eastern Angles patron Neil Innes)

Terry Gilliam and the Pythons (with Eastern Angles patron Neil Innes)

I suspect, like most people,I first came across Terry Gilliam through his work with Monty Python. Mind, like an awful lot of trends, I discovered the Pythons late probably second or third time round. Even so the surreal magical, fantasy world his animations create felt astonishing, unsettling, hilarious and completely fresh….. as the python motto went ‘and now for something completely different’.

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ENO production of Nixon in China

ENO production of Nixon in China

I think I first found myself braving the doors of English National Opera for a dress rehearsal of Peter Sellars production of Nixon in China. Shamefully I dont remember much about it – apart from Sellars distinctive hair as he paced the auditorium and a rather two dimensional plane (which wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d seen the original production of Miss Saigon months (?) earlier with its famed helicopter effect). I’ve been back quite a lot more recently indulging my inexplicable love of American minimalism and enticed by generous first time attender discounts and a list of intriguing directors including Improbables Phelim McDermott and Complicite. There is something wonderfully welcoming and embracing about the Coliseum!

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Needless to say, then, I’m intrigued by what Gilliam will conjure up for Benvenuto Cellini ENO production . I’d never heard of Berlioz rarely performed first opera but I’ve been listening to it a lot of late. Its a rich chocolate box of a score, which feels instantly familiar. The opera tells the story of 16th century goldsmith, sculptor, draftsmam, soldier and musician. Cellini was, apparently , one of the most important mannerists whilst Gilliam is fascinated by the baroque, but hey whats a few (overlapping) decades between creatives!

With its mix of biography, spectacular, production challenges et al it soumds like a perfect fit for Gilliam’s surreal, magical weirdness (or as the ENO copy has it his ‘inexhaustible imagination’). There will, I suspect, be no room for Patsy, coconut horses or Colonel Fang of the Spanish Inquisition but the imperial Willard White gets to play a pope. Bring it on!

Some links and (rave) reviews from the show (added Sunday 7 June)

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