Saturday, August 12, 2023

Four Nights at the Opera

Martina Franca, Puglia, Italy. July/August-2023

Previously we had only been to one opera as part of the Festivale Della Valle D'Itria in 2018 which was Rinaldo by Handel at the Palazzo Ducale. Following the taster session this year at Masseria Torre Maizza we bought a season ticket for four operas. I haven't been to many operas and the ones I have seen have all been a bit serious. This lot were clearly musical theatre with a large component of opera buffa aka farce, Brian Rix eat your heart out! Several of them appeared to have moral messages, bad guys don't get the girl.

Saturday 22-July, L'Orazio by Pietro Auletta: 

"Based on the libretto by Antonio Palomba, who later became a prolific Neapolitan librettist, “Horace” was performed for the first time in Naples at the Teatro Nuovo in the Carnival of 1737..." [L'Orazio]

Lots of love triangles and some mistaken identities thrown in. It had strong elements of #metoo as the impresario tries to seduce various sopranos with offers of stardom being more interested in their allure than their talent. It all works out in the end though - the music teacher gets his girl, the separated lovers were happily reunited, the lost sisters find each other and the impresario ends up alone.

This production was held in the Teatro Verdi in Piazza XX Septembre.

The interior before the performance - no photos allowed during.

Saturday 30-July-23, Il Paese dei Campanelli by Carlo Lombardo and Virginio Ranzato: 

"... a sparkling novelty: “The Land of Bells”, operetta in three acts by Carlo Lombardo, already known conductor, composer and librettist, and Virgilio Ranzato, violinist converted to the genre since 1911..." [Il Paese dei Campanelli]

This opera was held in the grand setting of the courtyard of the Ducal Palace.

The plot and production can best be described as bonkers. The story is set in the roaring 20s with all the ladies in their best flapper outfits. However, their husbands are dressed more in an Edwardian style possibly to emphasise their old fashioned attitudes. It is clear that the wives of the town are unappreciated by their stuffy husbands. 

Then a troop of dancers burst into the nightclub and proceed to do a dance routine dressed in full Egyptian costumes.

Next a ship load of sailors dock in the harbour for repairs to their ship. They proceed to seduce all the ladies of the town while their menfolk drink scotch and smoke cigars in their club. Bedrooms are run in and out of, trousers are dropped, The curse of the town is that when the wives are unfaithful the bells in the town ring to alert all to their infidelities. 

Then follows another random dance routine of a photo shoot involving Safari animals, which again appears to have nothing to do with anything at all. An ape goes ape-shit, a lion roars, a pantomime zebra (!) does a dance, three dancers in bright pink with flamingo headdresses pirouette then all exit stage left.

A telegram requesting a boat load of dancers (euphemism, I suspect, for women of loose morals) is misdirected to a boat containing all the sailors’ wives who, outraged, decide to pretend to be "dancers". They arrive and learning of their husbands infidelities proceed to seduce all the stuffy quasi-Victorian husbands. Again, all the bells go off, and the town wives learn of their husbands' infidelities. General outrage all round at this tit-for-tat revenge. They decide that dishonour has been satisfied by this reprisal, all is forgiven. The curse of the bells is lifted from the town and we have a grand finale with more song-and-dance.

Like I said, all a bit bonkers. 

Wednesday 02-August-23, Gli Uccellatori by Carlo Lombardo and Virginio Ranzato: 

"Based on the libretto by Carlo Goldoni, “Gli Uccellatori” was staged for the first time in Venice at the Teatro di San Moisè, in 1759. The manuscript, signed by the Bohemian composer Florian Leopold Gassmann, was rediscovered in the National Library of Vienna in 2015, thanks to a research project directed by the musicologist Michele Calella, Full Professor of Musicology at the University of Vienna. The story, set in the countryside surrounding a stately palace, is based on the love affairs between a serious couple, Marquis Riccardo and Countess Armelinda, and a group of comical characters, which include three bird hunters and two cunning servants." [Gli Uccellatori]

This opera's plot isn’t quite as complicated. Not so much a love triangle as a love polygon. All the ladies were in love with one of the three bird-hunters. All the bird-hunters are in love with the same lady The Marquis’ suit is rejected by the Countess as she loves the hunter. The Marquis hires one of the other hunters to kill off his love rival but the hunter fails to deliver. After much to-ing and fro-ing, the Countess succumbs to the Marquis' blandishments, the two servant girls end up with a hunter each and the bad one ends up all alone.

One delightful feature of this production was a dancer often with two white fans fluttering around in the background to represent wild birds. She moved so very elegantly and each movement conveyed such emotion. It was a joy to watch and one of the reasons why this production was our favourite of the four. 

Sunday 06-August-23, Il Turco in Italia by Gioacchino Rossini:

"Il Turco in Italia, one of the most famous comic operas by Gioacchino Rossini composed on a libretto by Felice Romani..." [Il Turco in Italia]

This production goes for a 50’s American vibe (Venice beach 1947 to be exact). The plot is as convoluted as the other operas. There is a gentleman and his wife. There is a lifeguard who is in love with the wife. A Turkish Sultan’s paramour is slandered and has to flee the country arriving in Italy disguised as a Gypsy. 

Some time later the Sultan visits Italy and just happens to arrive in the same town where his ex is living. The gentleman’s wife is a blonde gold-digger who tries to seduce the Sultan whilst a postman and would be librettist acts as narrator saying “this would make a great plot for my opera”. 

There is a masked ball where the lifeguard disguises himself as the Sultan who is also there, masked, and two women both disguise themselves as gypsies. Mistaken identity wooing takes place. It all ends happily and the Sultan sails off with his love. At least I think that was the plot but it was hard to tell. See Wikipedia Il turco in Italia.

Courtesy of the artistic director we got a tour backstage during the interval and saw the various offices that had been co-opted as dressing rooms. We even got to stand in the wings as they prepared for Act 2.

All in all a very entertaining season.

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