Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Story of Lo Speziale

For our production of Lo Speziale the production team has taken the original translation by Carlo Goldoni and updated it to connect the story to something contemporary - Breaking Bad. Here's OUR version of the story of Lo Speziale:

Sempronio is a middle aged meth cook who took in an orphaned young woman named Grilletta. Now that she is of a marriageable age, Sempronio is inspired by recent news, and decides that he will marry Grilletta to take control of her personal fortune. Sempronio, however, has two younger rivals - his apprentice Mengone and Volpino, a rich lawyer who is a regular customer. 


Mengone enters the lab, take a hit off his meth pipe, and falls into a drug induced haze in which he dreams... 


In the first scene we see Mengone as he mixes drugs while singing about how he hates his job. He knows nothing about chemistry and only works as an apprentice to Sempronio to be near Grilletta, who he's fallen in love with. 

Sempronio arrives 
and doesn't pay attention to Mengone - he seems more interested in reading the news than in making drugs. HIs favorite is a story about a drug dealer who married his ward. This inspires Sempronio to hurry up and marry Grilletta, much to Mengone's dismay. Enter Volpino with a fake order - he's really come to woo Grilletta. Volpino has noticed that Mengone also has a crush on Grilletta so he uses his visit to tease Mengone. While Mengone is busy making the drugs for Volpino's order, Volpino tries to seduce Grilletta, who is not interested and mocks Volpino's efforts. Volpino hates being teased and threatens to kill Mengone.

Once Volpino has left the shop, Grilletta finds herself alone with Mengone and flirts with him, since Mengone is the man Grilletta really wants.
Sempronio returns and cuts their flirtation short. Sempronio is once more engrossed with current events and mulls over an opportunity to take over territory from the Mexican cartels. Sempronio leaves once again to devise a plan, and Mengone and Grilletta get friskier. Sempronio catches them in a compromising pose and in a rage kicks them both out of the lab. 



Sempronio decides to marry Grilletta and end her flirtations once and for all. Sempronio sends for a notary to perform a civil marriage service.

Meanwhile, Grilletta has had just about enough of Mengone's inability to stand up for himself to Sempronio and ask for her hand in marriage so she decides she will marry the first man who
 proposes to her. Sempronio proposes and Grilletta reluctantly accepts, but only to push Mengone into action. 

The notary arrives - but it's Volpino in disguise! 
Then a second notary arrives - Mengone in disguise! Sempronio, not recognizing either of the two, asks them both to write a copy of a marriage contract. He dictates the contract, in which Grilletta is said to marry Sempronio by her own free will; the two fake notaries distort every word, and each puts his own name instead of Sempronio's. When the contract is written, Sempronio takes one copy, Grilletta the other and the whole fraud is discovered. Volpino and Mengone are then kicked out of the lab by Sempronio.



Sempronio receives a letter from Volpino, telling him that the cartels want to pay a lot of money for his superior blue meth. Mengone and Grilletta confess that they still love each other, and devise a plan to convince Sempronio to let them marry. Soon after, Volpino, disguised as a Mexican drug dealer, arrives to negotiate a major drug deal with Sempronio and the two celebrate their deal with "libations." After their celebration, Grilletta and Mengone convince Sempronio, who in incredibly high, to let them marry. Without realizing that the suitor is Mengone, Sempronio agrees thinking he is making a deal with the same Cartel Leader he just celebrated with. Volpino arrives back on the scene, confused to find that Grilletta is already married to someone else. Volpino finally gives up, and the young lovers smoke to their happy future. 

Meet the Characters of Lo Speziale

Lo Speziale was Joseph Haydn's third opera, and the first opera to be performed performed in 1773 at the newly-built opera house at Eszterhazá, often referred to as the Versailles of Hungary. Goldoni’s libretto, which had been set fifteen years earlier for a carnival in Bologna, had to be rewritten and reduced to suit the four singers available. This involved the necessity of casting a woman in the role of Volpino and transferring one of the other male roles from the bass clef. A cast with two tenors and two sopranos, is in other words no whim of the librettist and/or the composer but a practicality. After the Eszterhazá performances the work fell into oblivion but was revived in the late 19th century. It was drastically rewritten, with little left of Haydn’s original, when it was performed by conductors like Mahler. It was not until the late 1950s that an authentic edition was published, based on an incomplete Budapest score. The greatest problem is that there is a great deal missing from the third act: an aria, a duet and lots of recitative. The opera is scored for two flutes, two oboes, bassoon, two horns, strings, continuo.

Lo Speziale tells the comedic story of a love triangle between the poor apprentice Mengone, the rich and assured dandy Volpino, and the local apothecary's ward, Grilletta. 

The Characters


(Team Pinkman: Katia Hayati / Team White: Carmelo Rosado)

An old apothecary, traditionally sung by a tenor. Sempronio is obsessed with the news. For our purposes, Sempronio is akin to Walter White.


(Team Pinkman: Kathryn Benedicto / Team White: Nicole Cooper)

Sempronio's ward, has a substantial inheritance. Traditionally sung by a soprano. For our purposes, Grilletta was inspired by Jane Margolis.


(Team Pinkman: Carmello Tringali / Team White: Mark Bonney)

Sempronio's young apprentice, traditionally sung by a tenor. For our purposes, Sempronio is Jessie Pinkman, the guy who's really too sweet to be a drug dealer.



 (Team Pinkman: Ewa Nowicka / Team White: Corinne Rydman)

A rich young dandy, regular drug buyer from Sempronio. Traditionally a breeches role, sung by a mezzo-soprano. For our story, Saul Goodman was our character reference.

Monday, July 6, 2015

All About Opera - The Cliff Notes for Beginners


What should I wear to see an opera? 
In Europe the dress does tend to run very formal (black tie) for every performance. Here in America, people do choose to make it a night out with fancy dress for a night at the opera, but honestly you can wear whatever you want. Here though, Silicon Valley work attire is just fine. Lo Speziale is an opera about drug dealers and wacky hijinks so whatever makes you ready to laugh is fine!

Most operas aren't sung in English so how will I know what's going on? 
Nowadays most operas project English translations (called surtitles or supertitles) above the stage. For Lo Speziale the production team has even updated the supertitles to reflect their Breaking Bad parody. 

Can I bring kids?
Generally, opera is better suited to older children because the stories often contain adult themes, and following the supertitles can be difficult for new readers. When bringing a child to the opera, it is helpful to explain the story in advance and instruct them on proper audience behavior - things like no talking and no kicking the seats. Lo Speziale is rated PG-13 for drug references, and adult language and gestures. 

How long does the opera last? Is there an intermission?
Running times vary per opera, but most run 2-3 hours in length, like most Broadway musicals. Some operas have two intermissions. Lo Speziale, however, is quite short as it has an approximate run time of 95 minutes which does include one 15 minute intermission. 

When should I clap?
At the end of big arias (solos) during an Italian opera (not during a heavy Wagnerian type opera - it's considered rude), at the end of each scene, and, of course, at the final curtain call. If you really enjoyed a singer's performance, during the curtain call feel free to shout out "Bravo!" (for a male performer), "Brava!" (for a woman) or "Bravi!" (for a group) - every performer loves an appreciative audience!

Any thing else I should know?
Please remain quiet from the time the orchestra starts (the overture is part of the opera, too!) so that everyone around you can enjoy the music. Don't open candy or gum wrappers, talk, use your cell phone or anything that lights up or goes beep during the performance. There is no photography or unauthorized recording during the show. Please do not sing along, tap in time, get up and move around or try to read your program while the performance is in progress - it's really distracting to the people around you! It is, however, quite alright to laugh! Lo Speziale is a comedy so enjoy it! Actors love to hear laughter in the audience! 

Opera Terms

Act. One of the main divisions of a drama, opera or ballet, usually completing a part of the action and often having a climax of its own.

Aria. [ah-ree-ah] A song sung by one person. In Italian, aria means "air," "style," "manner." The aria had a central place in early opera and throughout operatic history, arias have been used to highlight an emotional state of mind and accentuate the main characters.

Baritone. The most common category of the male voice; lower than a tenor, but higher than a bass. Baritones were more commonly used in during the Romantic opera era.

Bass. The lowest male voice. Many bass roles are associated with characters of authority or comedy.

Buffa. Opera buffa is a genre of opera that began in Naples in the mid-18th century. It's an exaggerated comedic opera that developed from the interludes performed between acts of the more serious operas. Opera buffa tends to have only two acts whereas opera seria (the more serious tragic operas) generally have three acts. The best known opera buffa is Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Lo Speziale is an opera buffa.

cadenza - Near the end of an aria, a series of difficult, fast high notes that allow the singer to demonstrate vocal ability.

coloratura soprano - A very high pitched soprano. also the description of singing which pertains to great feats of agility - fast singing, high singing, trills, and embellishments.

Composer. The person who writes the vocal and/or orchestral music (score).

Conductor. The person in charge of all the musical aspects of an opera; both orchestrally and vocally.

crescendo - Getting progressively louder.

diminuendo - Getting progressively softer.

Dynamics. The degrees of volume (loudness and softness) in music. Also the words, abbreviations, and symbols used to indicate degrees of volume. Piano (soft) and forte (loud) are most common.

Duet. Two people singing together.

finale - Last song of an act, usually involving a large number of singers.

Harmony. Harmony is the chordal or vertical structure of a piece of music, as opposed to melody (and polyphony, or multiple melodies) which represents the horizontal structure. The succession of chords in a given piece is referred to as a chord progression.

Librettist. The person who writes the text (words) of the opera.

Libretto. [lih-breh-toh] The text of the opera. In Italian, it means "little book."

Lyrics. Words of an opera or of a song.

Opera. A staged musical work in which some or all of the parts are sung. In Italian, the word "opera" means a work which is derived as the plural of the Latin opus. Opera is a union of music, drama and spectacle.

Overture. An orchestral introduction played before the action begins. The overture is often used to set the mood of the opera. Many composers used the overture to introduce themes or arias within the opera and sometimes the overture became more well known than the opera itself.

Pants Role. A young male character who is sung by a woman, usually a mezzo-soprano, meant to imitate the sound of a boy whose voice has not yet changed. In Lo Speziale, the role of Volpino is traditionally a pants role. 

Quartet. Four people singing together.

Recitative. Dialogue which is "sing-speak." The recitative helps get through a lot of text quickly and moves the action along. Often precedes an aria or ensemble.

Soprano. The highest female voice. The soprano is commonly the lead female character.

Tempo. The speed of the music.

Tenor. The highest natural male voice. Often the lead male character within the opera.

Trio. Three people singing together.