White Shirt Monday: Be-ppe-A-Lula

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[So… show of hands: Who of you would go home with Iervolino’s Aladdin ostracized violin virtuoso instead of the Disney Prince tenor? – Yep, that’s what I thought. And, look, there’s an entire evening of that on Culturebox to stream on demand! Teresa Iervolino (Beppe) and Alessandro Scotto di Luzio (Fritz) in Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz”, Venice/La Fenice 2016]

Since we have been on an extended Iervolino appreciation spree for the past two weekends, let’s make that three strikes – and return to a trouser role, too (unless you’re in Dresden today, then you can catch Iervolino in skirts, opening with “Barbiere” tonight at Semperoper – tickets still available, and standing room should be open, too. It’s the not-very-challenging Asagaroff staging with the guards marching up and down and up and down the stairs until you get migraines, but I trekked to it because of a Rosina before (Kasarova!) and would do so again).

Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz” (1891) is a late entry in the trouser role game, and the usual ‘harmless desexualized side kick’ fare if you can talk about ‘harmless’ at all when Iervolino is singing, which I think you can not.

As a teenager, I only knew “L’amico Fritz” by the Pavarotti/Freni recording cover, which does sum up everything you need to know about this opera in one jpg. Bascially, it’s that Barbara Cartland novel about “The Bachelor Viscount”, set against a cutesy pseudo-Alpine background: rich confirmed bachelor landlord ‘in his prime’ ending up marrying a much younger village girl over whom he holds authority  and who is showcased for her ingenuity and emotionality. (ickety ickety ICK,  to phrase it academically)

In that setting, you then have a rabbi as a fatherly ‘best buddy’ figure, who of course proposes a bet about money and a vineyard and meddles in matchmaking. And into that mix, you throw the trouser role, ethnically framed as ‘gypsy’. I kid you not. This Beppe is, in the narrative, an outside commenter on love, but the figure who, through his over-emotional music, enables the romantic discourse of the lead characters. (he does, get to sing quite passionately about a past lost love at one point, though)

Now if you expected that this Fenice production would be addressing the racist and misogynist issues at hand, I would very much like some of whatever it is you’ve been smoking. Same goes for addressing the possibly subversive aspects of the trouser role as mediator of romance. Or all other subversion, really.


[The fun you could have with this! The severe Miss-Danvers-looking extra and Suzel (Carmela Remigio) are interchanging cherries. And eggs. How can you even stage that with a straight face? (And that is before the tenor walks in, and the ingenue soprano literally says, “I’ve got a surprise for you! Cherries!!” and the bachelor tenor literally replies, “oh, are they ripe already?” I mean come on! The librettist must have been snickering their way through writing this) – Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz”, Venice/La Fenice 2016.]

Alas, this is ‘traditional’ in the sense of “standing around over-emoting in lavish and stereotyping costumes without any clear character cueing, unless a singer is good enough to forge their own narrative”.

So why look at this, until you’re into schmoozy verismo? (can it still be called verismo if the lead soprano sports a Minnie Mouse ribbon on her coiffure? What IS that thing?!)

— Well, watch it for Iervolino’s sound and energy, obviously. Also, because of her rather infectious grin. Plus, sideburns. (And, possibly, to contemplate over the Pirates of Pezance headgear ™  whether she’s gearing up for Azucena in some 20 years. Because I would be down for that. Unless I can have more Tancredi instead. Then I want Tancredi).

Since Beppe is only in four scenes, suffice if you check in as of 19’00, briefly around 45’00 and 59’00 (on the issue of apples. This is a fruitcake opera), and then again at 1’25’30. (plus finale appearance: 1’45’30)

PS. Also, in the intermission feature: I have no idea what is going on  here, but it has Monica Bacelli in a tux channeling Tilda Swinton. Where do I sign up?



11 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: Be-ppe-A-Lula”

  1. “Since Beppe is only in four scenes, suffice if you check in as of 19’00, briefly around 45’00 and 59’00 (on the issue of apples. This is a fruitcake opera), and then again at 1’25’30. (plus finale appearance: 1’45’30)”
    Oh, no, I should have finished reading this post completely before heading into it, would have spared me some frustrations…. now, there she is, let’s see, if she can sell that outfit to me, she must be really ,really good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wondered the same thing what with her singing Barbiere (although Barbiere exists in all kinds of transpositions).



  2. (i’m very impressed with Bacelli in that pose! i’d like to visit the subject of this post too.. but at the moment having some kind of ear bug for “Dido and Aeneas”.. and have been listening to R.Basso’s take, then ACA’s take, then repeat… may be in 4 days i’ll get tired of it and switch gear..

    (Lulu with PP is good for me too! and saturday? i don’t know the opera, only knew it’s heavy.. but if there’s an opportunity for it, this would be it. isn’t that the role she sang at Vienna where they also put up that portrait for her?)


    1. Wasn’t the Vienna feature because of Manon? I don’t know whether the Staatsoper even has a Lulu in their repertory. It’s heavy plot-wise (woman/projection of woman as an evil seducer, in the end turned prostitute and killed), narrative-wise (male author gaze squared and cubed and taken to the fourth and fifth dimensions), and the music is twelve-tone. Perhaps take a brief peek/listen and tell me if you’d be okay with it?



      1. oh!
        not sure if i can get that 12-tone business at all…, yes, please allow a couple of days to test the water (and i’m getting a bunch of things mixed up.. B.Hanigan’s something at Aix mixed with Manon with Lulu, to illustrate how clueless i’m..)


        1. The Salzburg trailer is here for a brief impression. We could always set up Saturday 9 p.m., and we’ll watch either “Lulu”, or if that’s not working for you (might simply be a headache thing), we figure out an alternative production as Plan B. (Figaro from Aix, perhaps? That one is also with Petibon, so we could make it a PP liveblog either way)


          1. i shouldn’t have distributed salzburg così or munich rigoleto, otherwise we’d have more choices 🙂 . well, there’s also ariodante but we’ve all seen multiple times i think? and that urgh Alcina.. actually that Alcina i was also soooo bothered by the damn switch of Bradamante into girly red dress.. urgh! but even then.. i’d be willing to watch again for PP reason..


          2. so, let’s see – if we exclude the Munich Rigoletto (which we already dug into in detail) and the Così (which is a hoot, but it does not even begin to showcase what Petibon can actually do with a part), that would leave is with the following choices:
            1) the Salzburg Lulu (2013 (?))
            2) the Aix Figaro (2012)
            3) the Glyndebourne Ariodante (2014 (?))
            4) the Aix Alcina (2015)

            personally, I’d prefer 1) , 2) or 3) (with the Alcina, I’d probably be grumbling about technicalities the whole way through).


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