Woody Allen -- rookie opera director -- is spending the Hanukkah holidays in Italy and has been awarded the 38th Giacomo Puccini Award in Florence, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Puccini.
Last night the Woody Allen-directed third of Il Trittico (Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica were directed by William Friedkin) has finally reared its Italian head at Los Angeles Opera and the audience seems to have appreciated the Woodman's first (and probably last, if his recent interviews are any indication) effort in opera direction.
Allen asked Santo Loquasto to design sets that were a cheerful hommage to Italian film comedy of the 1950s and 1960s, all Pietro Germi and Vittorio de Sica influenced, with Florence transformed into Naples or Palermo in a caricature of the old Italian South (Buoso Donati's testament is hidden in a big pot of spaghetti), black clad crying women and sexy Lauretta in a black sottoveste (all the better to flatter Laura Tatulescu's b00bylicious shape) and a Rinuccio explicitly inspired by (Allen's own directions to tenor Samir Pirgu) Marcello Mastroianni's delicious sprezzatura. Is it Puccini? We don't know. But it does sound funny.
Turning Puccini's comedy of errors in a gleeful sendup of old Italian comedies and mafia films is so Woody it isn't even funny (well, it is, of course): too bad Woodino himself didn't show up on stage at the end with the cast and conductor James Conlon to reap the applause (but then, fear of being booed is a very human sentiment, especially if your medium is cinema -- even if once upon a time Allen himself was a standup comedian).
After all, when you think about it, making Gianni a mafioso and playing it all for laughs with old skool movie credits rolling on a screen before the opera begins, and in the end Woody even tinkers with the libretto so that Gianni's cousin returns to the stage and stabs him, works in a cute "here's my hommage to all the old Italian stuff I've learned to love as a child at the movies" -- it is quite endearing. It's like Radio Days at the opera, with Italians replacing Jews. It's a good idea. Goodness knows professional opera directors -- not self-admitted dilettanti such as Woody -- have worked on shakier, much dumber premises.
Friend of Opera Chic Tim Mangan from the OC Register came, saw and LOL'd:
On the other hand, characters who covet their adoptive daughters are just fine by opera standards -- nothing particularly wrong about that (only it's Strauss, not Puccini, Woody):
He said, “What if we do the Puccini trilogy — it’s three one-acts that
are always done together? The first two, Billy Friedkin will direct.
You’ll only be responsible for a one-act, a one-hour opera, and it’s
funny.” You know, funny to opera people is not funny to the Marx
Brothers. But I agreed to do it, because Mark Stern is a friend of mine
and Plácido Domingo is someone who I have enormous respect for, and
they both assured me I would be able to do it. And I said I would years
ago, because these things are planned years in advance. I figured, “Eh,
I’ll be dead before it happens. I’m 72. I’m never going to make it to
the opera.” But it came around, and next Monday, I start rehearsal.
I’ll just do the best I can and then get out of town and let them tar
and feather Friedkin.