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A Brief History of Nosferatu


The most potent myths are subject to endless permutation, and the myth of Dracula is no exception. The opera receiving its world premiere in Boise on November 6 is actually a version of a version of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, which itself embodies dream imagery, historical research, and a corpus of shadowy beliefs and legends.

Stoker drew upon a nightmare induced, as his son would later testify, by "too much dressed crab," and upon his own ambiguous feelings toward mesmerizing actor Henry Irving. He also incorporated aspects of the life of Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler or (drumroll!) Vlad Dracula, a bloodthirsty Romanian prince of the fifteenth century. Last but scarcely least, he studied the writings of Emily Gerard, who had described her two-year sojourn in Transylvania in The Land Beyond the Forest.

F.W. Murnau's 1922 expressionist classic Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror transforms Stoker's Dracula into the rodent-like Count Orlock, whose ancestral home lies in the Hungarian region of Carpathia. Jonathan Harker becomes Hutter, a German real estate agent from Bremen. The film's credits acknowledge Dracula as a source, but because the adaptation was not legally sanctioned, Stoker's widow sued and eventually forced the incineration, she thought, of all copies. Fortunately at least one survived, and it is upon this work--recognized today as the most effective cinematic rendition of Stoker's novel--that composer Alva Henderson and librettist Dana Gioia have based their own Nosferatu.

--Grove Koger

Opera Idaho's production of Nosferatu opens Saturday, November 6, at 8 p.m. at the Morrison Center. Tickets range from $22 to $64. Tickets at 426-1110, 426-1494 or Select-a-Seat.