Tag Archives: Woody Allen

#LAO30Images: Film Meets Opera

Woody Allen directing the 2008 cast of <em>Gianni Schicchi</em>

Woody Allen directing the 2008 cast of Gianni Schicchi

Like the Force, our opera and film connection is strong. In celebration of tonight’s 88th Academy Awards, we are dedicating our #LAO30Images to showcasing the amazing productions that tie opera and film together. This includes everything from filmmakers, who have directed operas here, to our recent silent film inspired production of The Magic Flute. Los Angeles is a cinematic city and LA Opera – being LA’s resident opera company – has always tapped into the special relationship between the two great art forms: film and opera. Below are a few of our film/opera collaborative productions.

Woody Allen and William Friedkin Take On Il Trittico (2008)

The 2008 season opened with Puccini’s Il Trittico, composed of three operas, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, and Il Tabarro. Oscar-winning film titan, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point, Annie Hall) made his opera directing debut with Gianni Schicchi (which recently returned to open our current season) and William Friedkin (The Exorcist) masterfully tackled Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica.

Herbert Ross Stages La Boheme (1993)

“Having worked in many art forms, I find opera is the most challenging of all, because it is a fusion of all the arts.” – Herbert Ross

Herbert Ross (Footloose, Steel Magnolias) directed a production of La Boheme in 1993 that significantly explores the deeper motivations behind Mimi, Musetta and Rodolfo’s actions. The story follows a series of bohemians in Paris (Ross updates the era to 1890s Paris) and centers on the love between Rodolfo and the dying Mimi. In Ross’ vision, Mimi and Musetta have more dimensions than are usually allowed – Musetta is characterized as a woman who demands independence, rather than a shrew, while Mimi is given greater agency and played as if she is not “innocent of experience.” Ross’ iconic 1993 production of Puccini’s La Boheme has been a crowd favorite for over 20 years and returns this June with the final two performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel (who recently worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and conducted a Super Bowl 50 Half-Time performance).

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Three Operas, Two Film Directors, One Iconic Opening Night

“As long as people feel emotion, fall in and out of love, experience joy and pain, this music will live on because no other composer combines truth and beauty or makes you laugh and cry, like Puccini.” – William Friedkin

Suor Angelica (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Suor Angelica (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

From its inception, LA Opera has cultivated a strong bond with film. This is a partnership that continues to prove successful. Herbert Ross, Peter Sellars, Gary Marshall, Maximilian Schell, Franco Zeffirelli, and even Julie Taymor have produced productions for the company. (Ross’ iconic 1993 production of Puccini’s La Boheme has been a crowd favorite for over 20 years and returns this June with the final two performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.) Yet, the 2008 season opener, a presentation of Puccini’s three one-act Operas, Il Tritico was a truly cinematic experience. Oscar-winning film titan, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point, Annie Hall) made his opera directing debut with Gianni Schicchi (which recently returned to open our current season) and William Friedkin (The Exorcist) masterfully tackled Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica.

<em>Il Tabarro</em> (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Il Tabarro (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Il Tabarro follows the love triangle of Giorgetta, her much older husband, Michele, and her lover, Luigi, while Suor Angelia is the story of Sister Angelia, a nun, longing for word of her illegitimate son. Gianni Schicchi is the story of a family’s squabble over the inheritance of their dead patriarch.

Can’t get enough of Puccini or Gianni Schicchi? We’ve collected a few articles below for you to check out.

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From Allen to Zeffirelli: Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci on the Silver and Small Screens

Since the July release of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the internet has been ablaze with stories about opera in film. In the movie, Tom Cruise plays spy Ethan Hunt, who thwarts an assassination attempt during a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. Rogue Nation is the latest in a long line of films that feature opera performances – utilizing arias to tell a story or illustrate elements of a character’s psyche. Franco Zeffirelli (whose production of Pagliacci returns to LA Opera this Saturday) specialized in making cinematic adaptations of operas in the 1980s, often collaborating with Plácido Domingo and Teresa Stratas. His 1982 adaptations of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are particularly stunning.

Two of the most famous arias to be used in film are “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The former is a persuasive aria, which Lauretta uses to convince her father Gianni Schicchi to stop fighting with the family of Rinuccio, the man she loves, while the latter is sung by Canio in Pagliacci after he discovers his wife’s infidelity. Both arias have been included in a plethora of films and television shows for decades.

Here are a few examples:

“O mio babbino caro” – Gianni Schicchi

A Room with a View (1985) – In the film, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) is torn between her fiancé Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the free-spirited George Emerson (Julian Sands), after meeting the latter in Florence. “O mio babbino caro” (performed by Kiri Te Kanawa) is the film’s main theme, expressing Lucy’s choice between a light-hearted romance and a passionate romance.

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