Sky Arts advertises its Opera Short project as featuring an ‘unlikely trio’ of directors making opera short films. While Sam Taylor-Wood, Dougal Wilson and Werner Herzog may not be the first names that come to mind if one were to make up a wishlist of directors to direct opera-based shorts, Herzog isn’t really that unlikely a suspect. After all, he has directed operas before.
In fact he just filmed the whole of La Bohème and the ‘behind the scenes’ of the opera for Sky Arts, which was released last week. Speaking to Andre Singer, the producer of the project, it was an experiment in opera broadcast. ‘It was the first time where, on two channels, you could watch the opera on one channel and you could watch behind the scenes live on another channel,’ he said. La Bohème is also the opera that Herzog’s short spotlights.
Herzog and Singer have been collaborators since 1991 when Singer was a commissioner for the BBC and he brought Herzog on board for Lessons of Darkness. Since Singer left the BBC he has worked as a producer on the majority of Werner’s docs, excluding Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World, produced with Creative Differences.
The four-minute short was shot while Singer and Herzog were in Ethiopia this past December, starting work on a feature doc. They hope to continue filming in the area in June. As for the La Bohème short, which juxtaposes opera with the African setting, it’s currently available on the Sky Arts website. The half-hour special, featuring behind the scenes footage of the shorts as well as interviews with the directors, will air on Sky Arts on February 21.