Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Penny Dreadful" Makes Dorian Gray A Sex-Craved Opera Lover

Nothing comes between a man of eternal youth and his needle: Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray.
"Some of literature's most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. Penny Dreadful is a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama." [Source] Showtime's latest original series, Penny Dreadful, features some of the best writing, acting, and scenography, in recent television. Creators, John Logan and Sam Mendes, have truly designed a turn-of-the-century atmosphere that encapsulates the British mentality moving away from rationalism into mysticism. One unique trait of the Dorian Gray character is his love of all things sensual, including opera. The audience is treated to several risqué scenes at his mansion where there is generally In flagrante delicto with opera playing for ambience. In one scene, it actually acts as a catalyst for a tête-à-tête with fellow actor Josh Hartnett. Listen to sound clips of the music sampled in the show, read more about the television series, and see some (NSFW) pictures of Dorian Gray's escapades, after the jump.

"Penny Dreadful is a horror TV series created for Showtime by John Logan and executive produced by Logan and Sam Mendes. The show was originally pitched to several US and UK channels, and eventually landed with Showtime, with Sky Atlantic as co-producer. It premiered at the South by Southwest film festival on March 9 and began airing on television on April 28, 2014 on Showtime OnDemand. The show premiered on the Showtime channel on May 11, 2014. The first two episodes of the series were both available on demand before the respective episodes were broadcast over the air. The title refers to the penny dreadfuls, a type of 19th-century cheap British fiction publication with lurid and sensational subject matter. The series draws upon many public domain characters from 19th-century Irish and British fiction, including Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Victor Frankenstein and his monster from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. On June 4, 2014, Showtime renewed Penny Dreadful for a ten-episode second season to air in 2015." [Source]

Coinciding with the Belle Époque period in Europe at the time, it is not surprising to find Camille Saint-Saëns injected into the drama in the form of the aria "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" from the composer's opera Samson et Dalila. "In performance, Saint-Saëns is said to have been 'unequalled on the organ,' and rivaled by only a few on the piano. However, Saint-Saëns's concert style was restrained, subtle, and cool; he sat unmoving at the piano. His playing was marked by extraordinarily even scales and passagework, great speed, and aristocratic refinement. The recordings he left at the end of his life give glimpses of these traits. He was, incidentally, the earliest-born pianist ever to make recordings. But he was not the earliest-born pianist to leave a record in any form of their piano playing, as Carl Reinecke, who was born in 1824 (eleven years before Saint-Saëns, and while Beethoven was still alive), made a Welte-Mignon roll in 1904, when he was 80. Nor was he the first pianist to make recordings; an arrangement of the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde was made by Landon Ronald in 1900 on a seven-inch Berliner disc." [Source]

After an evening at the theater in which Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) has an argument with his consumption-ridden, Violetta-esque prostitute girlfriend Brona Croft (Billie Piper), Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) steps in to take his male pal to a grotesque underground gambling den where bets are placed on how many rats a cute little doggie can kill. Unnerved by the action, Mr. Chandler and Mr. Gray retreat to the confines of the portrait-filled mansion to sip absinthe. Suddenly, Dorian reaches for his favorite cylinder of Wagner's "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde. The passion in the room is too heavy to be ignored and Ethan grabs Dorian to plant a firm kiss directly on his supple lips. A later episode reveals in detail what happened after the camera cuts to another scene that evening.

Lest you think that Dorian keeps his lust confined to orgies and man-on-man action, we next see him seduce Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) in another episode after much strolling through greenhouses looking at rare orchids. As the two make their way back to the Gray lair, he once again winds up his Edison wax cylinder phonograph to pump out beautiful duets. The first music we hear is "Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs....Dôme épais, le jasmin" taken from the opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes. Once thoroughly worked up with the idea of white jasmine, Vanessa requests music for dancing. Dorian obliges by putting on the duet "Au fond du temple saint" from Georges Bizet's "Les pêcheurs de perles." We can only assume the dancing Ms. Ives meant was the horizontal tango, because soon after the two find their way into the boudoir for some animalistic fornication.

The show even manages to loosely slip a Phantom of the Opera plot line into the mix with the Frankenstein character working in the dark lower levels of a theater while all the while admiring the beauty of the lead stage actress Maud Gunneson (Hannah Tointon). That does not end well. While audiences await Season 2 of this terrific drama, take some time to enjoy more photos of Dorian Gray's trysts in the confines of his mansion walls. More opera to come, no doubt.


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