Robert LePage, director of San Francisco Opera's upcoming U.S. premiere of Stravinsky's “The Rake's Progress,” equates performance with play.
“I believe in playing,” says the acclaimed French Canadian director, actor, writer and founder of the multidisciplinary production company Ex Machina. “Actors bore me, but players are interesting.”
A hot commodity in the world of contemporary theater known for his innovative use of technology, LePage's packed resume also includes film (“The Far Side of the Moon”), concerts (Peter Gabriel's 1993 “Secret World” Tour), and even circus; he created Cirque du Soleil's thrilling spectacle “KA,” permanently onstage in Las Vegas.
“That's my thing. I always try to prepare a space for people to play,” LePage, “not yet 50,” says when asked what characterizes his varied body of work.
His unique style has been in demand for decades, going back to the 1980s when many international opera houses were doing new productions of Wagner's “Ring” cycle.
“I've been offered 10,000 'Rings,' I'd never doneopera before,” he says.
His first opera, in 1993, was a successful Canadian Opera Company double-bill of Bartok's “Bluebeard's Castle” and Schoenberg's “Erwatung.”
Though still not devoted exclusively to opera, he calls it a big adventure. “It's the great mother art,” a meeting point of different disciplines.
LePage's new interpretation of “The Rake's Progress,” which has been produced in Brussels and Lyon, gives the story — about the decline of a fellow named Tom Rakewell due to decadent living — a 1950s Hollywood setting.
As a starting point for his direction, LePage points to the fact that Stravinsky, who, when he was composing in the late 1940s, was looking ahead to writing opera for television. “He was an amazing antenna,” says LePage.
Like Stravinsky, LePage believes in progress. He says, “If one is in the theater, if you want it to evolve, you have to invite a lot of influences. You have to update.”
That attitude seems to be the secret of LePage's professional success. He says, “I'm a free spirit. I used to be offered very specific things, but now I'm not hopping around, being commissioned. I've managed to do my own stuff.”
IF YOU GO
The Rake's Progress
Presented by San Francisco Opera
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 23, Dec. 1, Dec. 4 and Dec. 7; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28; 2 p.m. Dec. 9
Tickets: $15 to $275
Contact: (415) 864-3330 or www.sfopera.com