Woody Allen to Direct His First Opera - Puccini's Gianni Schicchi in Los Angeles
By Matthew Westphal
Los Angeles Opera, which for a number of years has been recruiting well-known filmmakers to work on its stage, has announced the latest addition to its directorial roster: Woody Allen.
The legendary comedian/filmmaker/writer/jazz clarinetist will direct Gianni Schicchi, the comic third part of Puccini's Trittico, in a new production of the complete trilogy to open L.A. Opera's 2008-09 season. This will be his first opera production.
"I have no idea what I am doing," said Allen in a statement released by the company yesterday, "but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm."
Staging the first two works in Puccini's "theatrical triptych," Il tabarro and Suor Angelica, will be William Friedkin, the Oscar-winning director of (among other films) The Exorcist, The French Connection and To Live and Die in L.A. Friedkin's most recent film, released this spring, is an adaptation of Bug, the hit off-Broadway play by Tracy Letts, starring Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon and Harry Connick, Jr.
Friedkin has worked at L.A. Opera twice in the past: his company debut was in 2002, directing (as it happens) Schicchi on a double bill with Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle; in 2004 he staged Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos.
Of his upcoming collaboration with Allen, Friedkin said in yesterday's statement, "Somewhere in the pantheon, I'm sure Puccini is smiling. To have Woody Allen direct Gianni Schicchi is a match made in heaven."
In announcing the new Trittico yesterday, L.A. Opera general director Plácido Domingo revealed some casting details. Il tabarro will star baritone Mark Delavan as the barge owner Michele, soprano Anja Kampe as his frustrated wife Giorgetta and tenor Salvatore Licitra as the young stevedore Luigi. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will take the title role in Suor Angelica, with mezzo-soprano Larissa Diadkova (making her house debut) as the cold-hearted Princess, Angelica's aunt. In Gianni Schicchi, veteran baritone Thomas Allen will play the clever peasant-made-good of the title, with soprano Laura Taulescu and tenor Samir Pirgu (also in their company debuts) as the hopeful young lovers Lauretta and Rinuccio. L.A. Opera music director James Conlon will conduct; set design will be by Tony Award winner Santo Loquasto.
Trittico — in its house premiere — opens Los Angeles Opera's 2008-09 season on September 6. The following evening the company presents another big movie-related event: the U.S. premiere of The Fly, an operatic version of David Cronenberg's 1986 film with a score by cinema composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings, Mrs. Doubtfire, Gangs of New York) and a libretto by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly). L.A. Opera general director Plácido Domingo will conduct and Cronenberg himself will direct the production; casting has not yet been announced.
"I've seduced many a film director into directing opera, starting with John Schlesinger and The Tales of Hoffmann at London's Covent Garden,” said Domingo in yesterday's statement. "I will admit that my pursuit of Woody takes the prize of the longest pursuit, because ... [we] first started talking to him some four years ago."
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