Monthly Archives: September 2015
“All the characters in the opera are obsessed, often to the brink of madness. Obsessions make men blind, unable to understand other points of view or to admit the balancing power of reason. And such obsessions finally lead to violence [in Salome]. Salome’s passions lead directly to her death. She is crushed like an infectious insect. We can only approve of her end, while perhaps reflecting that all of us have the possibility of aberrant sexual behavior inside us. It is the obverse of true passion.”
– Sir Peter Hall, director of 1986’s Salome
In 1986, Marie Rogers was an opera enthusiast excited that Los Angeles was finally getting its own resident opera company. She taught in LA’s public school system at the time and couldn’t wait to spend a night at the opera watching Plácido Domingo in Otello. But she couldn’t find anyone to go with her.
So Marie went alone – and loved every second of it. The show made a great impression on her and she wanted to be a part of it. Act I had a children’s chorus and Marie thought to herself, “There has to be a studio teacher for those kids.”
You don’t always associate opera with the Olympics, but we should be grateful the Games of the XXIII Olympiad took place in Los Angeles or else you might not be reading this article right now. And I might not be sitting in the living room of this beautiful single-story house in Pasadena, right around the corner from the Rose Bowl, with the sounds of KUSC drifting across the polished wooden floors.
VERISMO (22 Scrabble points) – Italian – Verismo literally means “realism” or “truth.” It is a genre of opera made famous by Puccini, Mascagni, and Leoncavallo in the late 19th century – think cinema’s Italian neo-realism movement, but for opera.
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.
George Gagnidze singing in The Metropolitan Opera Spring Highlights Concert
Pagliacci opens not with a love triangle scene between Canio, Nedda, and Silvio, but instead with a clown. This is Tonio, the fool of Canio’s troupe. He emerges and addresses the audience directly—“Si puo, si puo,” asking for indulgence.
Across the country, college football teams are taking the field to kick off their season during the annual College GameDay tradition.
We’ve got college teams of our own at the LA Opera to help kick off our season. Through a very special program called Operawise, about 100 college students watched today’s Orchestra Tech rehearsals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci. … Continue reading
Making his operatic debut in this month’s upcoming production of Pagliacci is none other than a donkey named Sue (aptly named after the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”). This tough leading animal arrived this week with his handler in tow, who will be a supernumerary in the show.
One of the most compelling aspects of these two operas is that each breaks the barrier of the fourth wall, that imaginary boundary between the actors and the audience. With Gianni Schicchi, we make it through the entire opera before this disturbing postscript annuls the cumulative comic impulse. In Pagliacci, the fourth wall is broken at the beginning and at the end of the opera, creating an instability that runs as an undercurrent through the whole piece.
There’s a lot to be said about LA Opera’s opening show, a double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci. We’ve been watching rehearsals all week and have compiled a list of a few of our favorite things:
2. If you’re on a low carb diet, stay off the set. There’s spaghetti in both of the one-act shows, and it’s real! Of course we make accommodations for our actors if they have dietary restrictions, but those aren’t rubber prop noodles!
Canio serves as a sort of moral barometer in Pagliacci. Although the tragic clown—smiling on the outside, crying on the inside—is now the stuff of endless parody, we can’t help but sympathize with Canio’s valiant attempts to go on with the show in spite of the devastating realization that Nedda is unfaithful. “Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarina,” laments Canio, “put on the costume and make up your face.” In his naivete, he denied his suspicions about his wife and lashed out at Tonio. We might feel a fleeting sympathy for Tonio were it not for the fact that he is a scheming troublemaker. From his first appearance—“I am the Prologue”—Tonio seems mysterious and intriguing, but he soon proves duplicitous and manipulative. A man who claims to be a literary device cannot be trusted.
Watching opera often also means reading supertitles – translations of opera text projected on a screen high enough for the whole audience to see. It’s a debated subject. Are supertitles needed or antiquated? While you’ll enjoy the opera whether you speak the language being sung or not, supertitles help you follow along.
Linda Zoolalian knows this well. A fan of opera since she saw a production of La Bohème as a teenager, Zoolalian runs supertitles for LA Opera (a position she has held since 2003). Working supertitles has strengthened her belief that the marriage between voice and text is vital to effect emotion in audience members.
The Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist’s emergence began 19 years ago, when his family moved from St. Louis to Sedalia, Missouri, and his mother and stepfather thrust their nine-year-old onto the community stage as a way to gain confidence and make friends.
Pagliacci is fueled by the crime of passion while Gianni Schicchi is powered by the sin of greed. Pagliacci’s origins were of the most mundane sort, but Gianni Schicchi sprang from a more literary source, one that also had roots in real life. In Canto XXX of The Divine Comedy, Dante and his guide Virgil arrive at the Eighth Circle of Hell, the place of falsifiers and forgers.