La Belle et la Bête by Philip Glass Comes to the Israeli Opera

LOS ANGELES, CA. OCT. 28, 2017. LA Opera presents Jean Cocteau’s 1946 cinematic masterpiece “La Belle et la Bête”. (Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)

The traditional fairy tale La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) is one of transformation, and in working with this theme, contemporary composer Philip Glass has created a work which unites and transforms the genres of film and opera. The Israeli Opera will present La Belle et la Bête, an opera by Philip Glass. A live interpretation of Jean Cocteau’s classic film (1945), the dialogue is sung by four live singers onstage, synchronized to the action in the film, with music performed by the Philip Glass ensemble, while Cocteau’s film is projected onscreen. Performances will take place October 11 – 13, 2018, with surtitles in English and Hebrew.


Glass views the tale as an allegory of the creative process, as he stated: “The journey in La Belle et la Bête becomes a journey through the unconscious to the site of the creative – the artist going into himself. The film is about the transformation of half-beast/half-human – which is what we are – to the state of the nobility of the artist. The Beast knows who he himself is, but he can’t be who he is. And isn’t that the very state we’re in when we’re trying to do our creative work? How do we become who we are?”

In creating this work, Glass removed the soundtrack and original score by Georges Auric from Cocteau’s film, and composed new music for the opera, with the dialogue perfectly synchronized to the film. La Belle et la Bête is the second in a trilogy of works Glass created in relation to Jean Cocteau’s work. In the first, the scenario from Cocteau’s Orphée served as the inspiration for the libretto of a chamber opera, in which Glass visualized new imagery for the work. The third part in the trilogy is a dance/theatre work based on Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terrible.

Over the course of a prolific career, Glass has composed many operas, from Einstein on the Beach (1976), created with director Robert Wilson, with whom he also collaborated on The CIVIL warS (1984). In addition to opera, symphonies, concertos, and chamber music, Glass has composed music for dance, theatre, and film. One of the most memorable is his score for Koyaanisqatsi (1981), directed by Godfrey Reggio, a film without dialogue or narration, relying entirely on music and imagery. Born in 1937 in Baltimore, Maryland, Glass studied at the University of Chicago, and the Julliard School, as well as with Nadia Boulanger. He also worked with composer and sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. Following a long sojourn in Europe, Glass returned to the U.S. in 1967 and founded the Philip Glass Ensemble. Although his music is typically referred to as “minimalist,” Glass prefers to refer to himself as a “composer of music with repetitive structures.”


Performances will take place at the Israeli Opera:

Thursday, October 11th at 20:00; Friday, October 12th at 13:00; Saturday, October 13th at 21:00. Ticket prices are from 195 NIS – 445 NIS, and may be ordered from the Israeli Opera website.