Friday, March 24, 2006

Since when did they speak Italian in California?

I don’t profess to know everything about opera, but I do consider myself somewhat knowledgeable on the subject. A little over a year ago, when we decided to produce The Girl of the Golden West (a.k.a. La fanciulla del West) as part of the 05-06 Opera Tampa’s season, I had to raise and eyebrow. First off, it’s an opera I wasn’t familiar with. It’s a rarely performed Puccini piece about a mining town during the California gold rush and an opera Puccini himself considered his greatest work. But the more obvious reason for my puzzled expression ... "Puccini, an Italian who understood very little English, wrote an opera about America? Really?"

But perhaps the thought of an Italian writing an opera about America isn’t that strange. For example, Aida is an Italian opera set in Egypt and Madama Butterfly is an Italian opera set in Japan. Heck, Carmen takes place in Spain, but is sung in French.

In the past few days I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on some rehearsals and I must say, it’s really not that strange. Yes, there are guys with rifles in frontiersman clothing singing Italian in a saloon ... but the music, the drama, the artistic beauty and the spectacle we’ve all come to expect from grand opera is definitely there!

So, I say think outside the box, grab some whiskey and say "Grazie, Puccini!"

- Angela L.

No comments: