Posts Tagged ‘opera’

Diet Valkyrie

Posted in General on March 11th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

Anna Nicole Smith Opera Taking the Stage

BBC News reports composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and writer Richard Thomas, along with London’s Royal Opera House will put on a stage performance about the larger-than-life former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, who died in 2007 of an accidental prescription drug overdose.

Donizetti composed “Anna Bolena“.  This could be “Anna Bulimia“.

Act I:  Anna is a waitress at a Texas truckstop.  She introduces herself with the aria:  “Che Gelida Manina” (Check out my jello).  There she is discovered by a starving Chicago artist Ugo Efneri who paints her portrait “Madonna of the Big Tomatoes.”

Act II:  Now famous on pasta jar labels, Anna is seen regularly on the talkshow of Lorenzo Reggio.  In his 800 years, he has never seen a woman more beautiful or one that made him seem so intelligent.  Lorenzo asks Anna to be his 47th wife.  She replies  in the aria “Bella figlia dell’amore” (More Figs Are Lovely) that she prefers food to men and flees to a Carmelite convent, expecting to find caramels.

Act III:  Hoping to increase her metabolism by ingesting 50 pounds of drugs a hour, Anna sings “Un bel dì” (Unbelly Diet.)  That doesn’t work.  Her last wish was to be covered in gingerbread and left as a cottage in a German forest. 

But that’s another opera…

Ironically, today is the anniversary of an excellent opera.

Pizza and Opera

Posted in General, On This Day on March 12th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

March 11th

On this day in 1851, Guiseppe Verdi presented what would be one of his most popular works: “Music to Make Pizza.”   Underestimating his importance to Italian cuisine, however, Verdi merely called the opera “Rigoletto.”  By my conservative estimate, at least 43 billion pizzas have been flipped to the musical accompaniment of “La Donna E Mobile.”

(It is physically impossible to hear this and just order plain cheese.)

Rigoletto is the story of a warped, malevolent jester who lives for vengeance.  (Perhaps I do identify with the title character although I have yet to plot the murder of any of my clients–but I am an underachiever.)  Bringing it to the stage, Verdi had to contend with the warped, malevolent jesters in the Austrian civil service.  At the time, Northern Italy was still Hapsburg property and the Austrian administrators were a bunch of suppressive prudes.  To those Austrian bluenoses, the original story was both pornographic and revolutionary.

The more tolerant French government had the same reaction when Victor Hugo dramatized the story in 1832.  His play “Le Roi S’Amuse” depicted a shamelessly lecherous king whose innumerable seductions include the daughter of his court jester.  The murderous  jester then plots to avenge his defiled (but quite gratified) daughter; as you might guess in a melodrama, there are complications and the wrong person is murdered.    The French authorities considered the play to be a vilification of the reigning monarch Louis Philippe and an incitement to rebellion.  After one performance, “Le Roi S’ Amuse” was banned in France; and it would not be performed again there for fifty years.

The Austrian censors in Northern Italy were more zealous.  They first had to approve the storyline of the proposed opera before further work could be done on it.  Of course, Hugo’s original plot was rejected.  Kings were not to be depicted in an unflattering light, and there must never be any murderous plots against them.  Verdi and his librettist Francesco Piave had to continually negotiate a plot that would survive the censors. 

The Austrians did not mind the Italians depicting themselves in a sordid manner; so the setting was changed to Italia.  The role of the king could be changed to a noble; but that noble could not have any living descendants to complain to the Austrians.  Fortunately, Italian virility is overrated, and there were a number of extinct aristocratic titles and lineages.  So the King of France was demoted to the Duke of Mantua; but that was fine with the censors.

“Rigoletto” premiered in Venice  on March 11, 1851.  Given its notorious French origins, the opera was not presented in Paris until 1857.  The alterations, however, met with the approval of the French government.  Victor Hugo’s approbation was not so easily won.  He disapproved of the compromising changes perpetrated on his work.  Nonetheless, Hugo was curious enough to see “Rigoletto” and he was almost disappointed that he enjoyed it.  At least, he had a vicarious satisfaction in the opera’s success.

And he was to have another vindicating pleasure.  When, after a 50 year ban, “Le Roi S’Amuse” was again performed in Paris, Victor Hugo was there to see it.

How I Became an Artistic Genius

Posted in General on April 26th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – 4 Comments

Although no one knew it at the time, Gaetano Donizetti suffered from manic-depression. (Doctors had no trouble diagnosing his syphilis.) The 19th century composer would be manic to know that his works are still popular; however, he might be depressed to know how they are being performed.

The Metropolitan Opera is staging “The Daughter of the Regiment” in an unique production. The comic opera usually is given a vague setting; it takes place in Bologna and you can only guess that it is the 19th century by the chorus’ uniforms (Epaulets were in!). But the Metropolitan’s production has changed the setting to that epoch of belly-laughing hilarity: World War I. Perhaps the opera should also be renamed “Orphan of the Regiment”, since quite a few French regiments simply ceased to exist after a day of trench warfare hijinks.

If the Met really wanted to update “The Daughter of the Regiment”, set it in World War II. There the “Regiment” could collaborate with a production of “Siegfried” to exterminate a production of “La Juive.” (The characters of “La Juive” do get killed; that 15th century setting could be easily updated.)

Some directors apparently have a compulsion to innovate. Their “interpretations” may be irrelevant, absurd or even destructive to the story, but the audience is supposed to appreciate the director’s fresh, bold vision. I remember a modern dress production of “Richard II.” In this setting, however, contentious nobles could not challenge each other by flinging a gauntlet. No, they were hitting each other with briefcases. I also endured a production of “Tannhauser” where the medieval troubador had become a modern televangelist; for once in my life, I felt sorry for Richard Wagner.

I am surprised that no artistic genius has relocated “The Mikado” to post-war Hiroshima. The Lord High Executioner could be back from a long weekend at Nanking (where the punishment fit the crime of being a breathing Chinese). And “the three little maids from school” could be one woman with three heads; radiation can be innovative, too.

Oh, and I envision “Gypsy” set in an 18th century French convent at the time of the Revolution. Mama Rose is the Mother Superior, and the only way the nuns can be saved from the guillotine is if Louise takes off her habit….

(I can’t tell if I am in my manic or depressive phase.)