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!