Sunday, September 4, 2011

HBO's "True Blood" Actress Fiona Shaw Directs Opera

Fiona Shaw easily morphs from
television witchery to a Da Ponte romp
with the greatest of ease.
It should come as no surprise that Irish actress Fiona Shaw, who plays Marnie Stonebrook on the HBO hit series True Blood, would have a connection to opera. Her character on the blood-thirsty drama is described as "...timid and socially awkward medium who serves as leader of a local Wiccan group. She poses a threat to humans and vampires alike." Sounds pretty operatic. But for a woman who has gained famed acting out the roles of Medea, Electra and Portia in Julius Caesar on the world's greatest stages, opera directing seems like a natural extension of her talents. She acted in many plays directed by Deborah Warner who entered the opera arena with works for Glyndebourne, English National Opera and a production of Dido & Aeneas with Les Arts Florissants that played in Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam. There is little doubt that it was Ms. Warner's influence that may have pushed Ms. Shaw toward an operatic directorial debut after a 24-year working relationship with each other. The production was Riders to the Sea, a one-act drama by Ralph Vaughan Willams, that took place at English National Opera in 2008. Since then she has reappeared at ENO to direct Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers in April 2010 and will return to the company in October 2011 to direct a production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Or perhaps it was Ms. Shaw's mother that exerted that most influence on her daughter's decisions. Before becoming a physicist she had another career in mind for herself: opera singer. [Source, Source, Source ]

Read a wonderful article written by Fiona Shaw in 2008 describing why she chose Riders to the Sea as her opera-directing debut by clicking here. Learn more about the actress by clicking here. A complete biography after the jump.

Listen to the complete Riders to the Sea:

VIDEO GUIDE: Listen to Fiona Shaw narrate a specially commissioned short film which gives an introduction to Glyndebourne Opera House; Watch the actress perform a prologue to Purcell's Dido & Aeneas filled with works by Hughes, Eliot and Yeats, at the Opéra Comique in 2009; An interview with Ms. Shaw describing her preparation for Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers; A preview to the upcoming production of Le Nozze di Figaro at ENO with commentary by Fiona Shaw.

BONUS CLIP: Fiona Shaw recorded a PSA, along with other cast members of True Blood, for the "It Gets Better" project:

Fiona Shaw, CBE (born Fiona Mary Wilson on 10 July 1958) is an Irish actress and theatre director. Although to international audiences she is probably most familiar for her minor role as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films, she is an accomplished classical actress. Shaw was awarded an honorary CBE in 2001. Shaw was born as Fiona Mary Wilson in County Cork, Ireland to a mixed-religious couple, and was raised Roman Catholic. Her father was an optic surgeon and her mother was a physicist. She attended secondary school at Scoil Mhuire in Cork City. She received her degree in University College Cork. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and was part of 'new wave’ of actors to emerge from the Academy. She received much acclaim as Julia in the National Theatre production of Richard Sheridan's The Rivals (1983), a role which demonstrated her gift for comedy. Despite her natural comic abilities, Shaw has opted more often than not for roles showcasing her extreme but unaffected emotional intensity. These performances have earned her numerous stage awards. Her notable theatrical roles include Young Woman in Machinal, Celia in As You Like It (1984), Madame de Volanges in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985), Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew (1987), Winnie in Happy Days (2007), and the title roles in Electra (1988), The Good Person of Sechuan (1989), Hedda Gabler (1991), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1998) and Medea (2000). She performed T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land as a one-person show at the Liberty Theatre in New York to great acclaim in 1996, winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for her performance. Shaw played the lead in Richard II, directed by Deborah Warner in 1995. Shaw has collaborated with Warner on a number of occasions, on both stage and screen. Shaw has also worked in film and television, including My Left Foot, Jane Eyre, Persuasion, Gormenghast, and five of the Harry Potter films in which she played Harry Potter's insufferable aunt Petunia Dursley. Shaw had a brief but key role in Brian DePalma's The Black Dahlia. In 2008, she directed her first opera, Riders to the Sea by Vaughan Williams at the ENO. In 2009, Shaw collaborated with Deborah Warner again, taking the lead role in Tony Kushner's translation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. In a 2002 article for The Daily Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen described their professional relationship as "surely one of the most richly creative partnerships in theatrical history." Other collaborations between the two women include productions of Brecht's The Good Woman of Szechuan and Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, the latter was adapted for television. Shaw appeared in The Waste Land at Wilton's Music Hall in January 2010 and in a National Theatre revival of London Assurance in March 2010. In November 2010, Shaw starred in Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin alongside Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan. Shaw has become a regular cast member of the TV Show True Blood. Shaw’s character, Marnie Stonebrook, has been described as an underachieving palm reader who is spiritually possessed by an actual witch. Her character leads a coven of necromancer witches who threaten the status quo in Bon Temps, erasing most of Eric Northman's memories and leaving him almost helpless when he tries to break up their coven. Shaw has been romantically linked in the press with actress Saffron Burrows. Neither actress has publicly commented on the relationship. The two appeared together in the National Theatre's production of The PowerBook, a play based on the novel of the same name by Jeanette Winterson in which they played lovers. In an interview with the New Statesman published on 24 September 2009, Shaw stated that she lives in Primrose Hill where she "has lived ... on and off for a long time". In a December 2009 interview, Shaw described herself as "very happily" single.

CREDITS: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1985) (TV series); The Taming Of The Shrew (RSC 1987); Electra (RSC 1988); My Left Foot (1989); Mountains of the Moon (1990); Three Men and a Little Lady (1990); Hedda Gabler (1993) (a televisation of the NT production); Super Mario Bros. (1993); Undercover Blues (1993); Persuasion (1995); Jane Eyre (1996); Anna Karenina (1997); The Butcher Boy (1997); The Avengers (1998); The Last September (1999); Gormenghast (2000) (TV); Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001); Medea (2001) (West End & NYC); The Seventh Stream (2001); Doctor Sleep (2002); The Triumph of Love (2002); Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002); The PowerBook (2002) (NT, which she co-devised); Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004); Midsummer Dream (2005); Empire (2005, international tour) (TV); The Black Dahlia (2006); Catch and Release (2007); Fracture (2007); Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007); Happy Days (2007 & 2008, NT and internationally); Dorian Gray (2009); Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010); Noi Credevamo (2010); Mother Courage and her Children (NT); London Assurance (NT); The Tree of Life (2011); True Blood (2011) [Source]