Immersing myself in the The Telephone and The Old Maid and the Thief, I find the music a delightful and varied mix: from lush Puccini-like melodies in Letitia’s aria “Steal Me, Sweet Thief”, to Lucy’s burbly telephone arias, to rapid patter dialogue in both operas.
Gian Carlo Menotti has been unjustly ignored recently, in my humble opinion. (Not unlike, dare I say, Domenico Cimarosa, whose L’Italiana in Londra we recently presented as the Canadian premiere.) He knew how to tell a story and set it to music! He defied the orthodoxy of his time, namely that serious music had to sound “difficult”, and simply paired words and music in delightfully inventive ways.
Most people who know Menotti’s name today know it because of Amahl and the Night Visitors, a Christmas favourite. But he also had a real knack for comedy: the comic moments in our two operas are many and unexpected, always supported by fresh and lively music. They deserve to be experienced live, performed by a committed cast of talented emerging artists!
And now, back to helping with the props.....
So we're putting on another show: two one-act operas by a gentleman named Gian Carlo Menotti. I assumed given the name that we would be doing more Italian, but I'm told both operas are in English. I'm not entirely convinced that this is strictly operatic, but I am told that these are genuine, bona fide operas and not musical theatre (not that there's anything wrong with a good sing-along - or meow-along - Evita from time to time).
But I digress. Both operas are comedies. One appears to be about a telephone and the other about an old maid and a thief. Again, this sounds highly un-operatic to me. I mean, who writes an opera about a phone? I think maybe these operas were originally written in Italian and then badly translated. That must be it.
Wait, no, I'm being told that they are definitely in English and that in fact one can write an opera about anything at all.
Well, really. Am I the conductor-in-residence or not? Now I shall have to erase all the Italian translations I made in the score. Oh well -- I suppose it will be worth it to present opera in the local language!
As we get closer to the company’s upcoming production of L’Italiana in Londra, I, as conductor-in-residence, have naturally done my own research into the composer, Domenico Cimarosa.
Not many opera-goers know much about him these days, but he was really the king of opera buffa (Italian comic opera) in the late 18th Century. Born in the south of Italy in 1749, he got his musical training in Naples and there began to compose operas.
L’Italiana was one of Cimarosa’s first operas to be set in standard Italian (rather than Neapolitan dialect) and to be set outside of Italy in the “exotic” location of London. It was commissioned by the Teatro Valle in Rome and premiered there on December 28, 1778. It became a huge success and was eventually performed all over Europe: at La Scala in Milan, Le Fenice in Venice, and soon in Paris, London, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Barcelona, to name a few.
Cimarosa’s librettist, Giuseppe Petrosellini, concocted a story that, as usual in comic opera, involves love thwarted by circumstances: in this case Milord Arespingh’s father disapproving of his involvement with Livia (the Italian girl) and recalling him to London. A determined Livia follows him there in disguise to find out what has happened. She works at an inn where, as it just so happens, Milord is staying! (What were the odds?)
Things unravel from there (or develop, depending on your point of view.) As with most operas, there is a terrible oversight in the complete lack of cats. Nonetheless, Cimarosa’s music is fresh and lively all the way through and shows why, even at a fairly young age, he was fully at home in the genre of opera buffa.
He died in Venice in 1801 after having been exiled from his beloved Naples. Political turmoil in the form of two regime changes were the culprit, as Cimarosa unsuccessfully tried to navigate all the upheaval. Mourned in his homeland, his operas remained popular for another couple of decades before changing tastes starting relegating them to the sidelines. We’re doing our part to bring at least one of them back into the limelight!
busted for listening to abba
Did you know that despite my lovely self being the poster-cat for ticket sales, they only cover half of the costs? Most of the rest comes from fundraising.
If you’d like to find out more about supporting this brave operatic endeavour, click here: http://www.fearnoopera.com/support.html
I believe there are perks for contributing – I may even sign the poster myself.
And now, back to my spotlight…
My humans nearly made a terrible mistake! They had plans to choose a drama for the next show, but I put my paw down, and we are having another comedy. Disaster averted, thanks to me.
L’Italiana in Londra by Domenico Cimarosa is a witty romp through the love lives of five people, topped off with an invisibility stone. There is, unfortunately, a complete and utter absence of all things feline, so I will be asking the stage director to cast an unwritten role for someone with four legs, a tail, and an impeccable sense of style.
The show will be June 13 and 14th. That’s right! My little company is growing up and offering two shows for the first time.
The humans are also on the lookout for volunteers – apparently my help is not enough. A claim I vehemently deny.
Should you be interested in exploring any of the myriad of activities that go into making an opera, please contact us at: FearNoOpera@shaw.ca
We are, apparently, looking for help in several areas, including marketing, costumes and sets.
And now, back to helping.
Being a cat, I'm all about discipline. At least with music.
So while there's nothing wrong with enjoying yourself at rehearsal, surely there's a fine line. A need to stay in character. This weekend Dorabella and Fiordiligi seemed to have trouble resisting the initial advances of Guglielmo and Ferrando when disguised as "Albanians".
In his aria "Non siate ritrosi" Guglielmo sings of the men's virtues, including moustaches that are "triumphs of manhood". I have no idea why the women find that funny. In fact, the score calls for them to leave in a huff. I'm sure they'll have that mastered by performance time.
It's on to staging rehearsals starting tomorrow under the watchful eye of stage director Graham McDonald. Less than three weeks to show!
The fundraising campaign continues on Rockethub -- we've reached 80% of our goal and just need a few hundred dollars to put us over the top! Please click on the Rockethub link and help support great opera by emerging artists!
Così fan tutte has a lot of recitative for the singers – that is, sung dialogue. So Amy, our Fiordiligi, came to me for help on some of her lines. I was only too happy to oblige. Things went well until I hit a sunny spot on the carpet.....
When I woke up, she’d moved on to rehearsing her most difficult aria, “Come scoglio”, which translates as “Like a reef”. Here, Fiordiligi sings defiantly that she will be immovable and not yield to the advances of any new suitors. (We’ll see how that turns out.)
While I don’t charge the company for my time, there are so many other things about opera that cost money: rehearsal and performance space, costumes, sets, artists’ honoraria. A great show like this takes help from generous music-loving souls out there.
So, Fear No Opera’s fundraising continues on the crowd-funding site, Rockethub: http://www.rockethub.com/35436 . Please help out today! Any support helps us present first-rate opera for our audiences!
I am pleased to learn that my humans are producing the opera that contains my namesake: Despina! This should really be the name of the entire opera, but I understand it’s actually called Cosi fan tutte (They’re All Like That). Ah well, the important thing is that I’m in it.
But wait! I am not cast as myself??? Who is this..... Anna Shill? Hmmm, soprano.....Masters in Music from UVic.... Well, that’s all well and good but she’s still not the original. No doubt I shall have to give her lessons in attitude, deceptive practices, and the like – so essential for this character who’s in on all the schemes.
At least the production doesn’t go live until Saturday, May 24th so there’s ample time to bring “Despina” up to Despina’s standards.
All's well that ends well. The right people end up together as a couple (in this case Ernesto and Norina) and many worthwhile lessons are learned -- by turns amusing and painful but always accompanied by gorgeous melodies from Signor Donizetti.
My people did a fine job with Don P (as we call him around here): singers, director, conductor and pianist. Not to mention all the production help (sets, costumes, props), without which opera does not happen.
The audience was definitely enthusiastic and we know that word of mouth will bring even more folks to hear FNO's next offering.
So stay tuned! Now back to practicing my high notes in the garden.....
It's spring and the birds start chirping early, which disturbs my sleep. But it's a good excuse to finally post a second blog entry. The humans are excited by the fact that the Don Pasquale show is now less than a month away.Billie, the dog
And I am too, of course! (When I'm not chattering back at the birds.) Especially since they've finally got a full creative team in place. They may have slipped this by me a few weeks ago while I was napping.
Got a conductor, Brian Wismath, who understands that I am the conductor-in-residence but am willing to share the baton this time around.
He's great, but as a transplanted Torontonian and presumed Leafs fan, I initially had some hesitation. More seriously, he is....... a dog person. Billie, to be precise, who....hey! Who posted that photo on my blog????
Also on board is director Graham McDonald, a Zen master of theatre as far as I can tell, although he doesn't come near me since he's allergic. (I've heard that one before.)
And last but not least, virtuoso pianist Michael Drislane, who can apparently play any score that is placed before him, and composes music as well.
I approve of them all, and welcome them to my opera company and to the mad-cap adventure that is our Don Pasquale.
Now to nap.