Opera is the one thing Mike Figgis hasn't done before and as he bows in at English National Opera with Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia he talks at length to Edward Seckerson about theatre, film, and his first love - music.

He still plays the trumpet on a daily basis (jazz is where he made his first musical connections) and he's just taken up the bass in the knowledge that it's never too late to broaden horizons. Figgis' early theatre work was multi-media from the get go and mixing live action with music and film is something he's decided to bring to his opera debut - not because he's a seasoned film director (his movies range from the local, Stormy Monday - which he wrote, directed, and scored - via mainstream Hollywood, Leaving Las Vegas and Internal Affairs, to the far-out and innovative Time Code) but because he wants to make sense to himself and to his audience how the back-story of an opera like Lucrezia impacts on the here-and-now drama.

Figgis is fascinating on the director's art and how the material dictates the approach. How do you free up an actor like Nicholas Cage for his Oscar-winning turn on Leaving Las Vegas? How do you get around the operatic convention of a woman playing a man in opera? Or do you...?

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