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I’VE REDISCOVERED a book about making one’s own opera production with nothing more than scissors and glue. What fun. A snip-and-paste challenge. I think of this as preparation for the Metropolitan Opera’s High-Definition broadcasts of its 2015-2016 season beginning October 3, 2015, in more than 2000 movie theaters in 70 countries. Daughter Suz and I will be there in our favorite seats. In the meantime….
Lowndes and Kaïler’s book is an ambitious one. Its 144 pages of art paper are to be cut, folded and pasted into a model theater complete with two full productions, Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème and Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty.
Bohème is the artsy Parisian romance that ends tragically with a cough persisting through much of Act IV. Sleeping Beauty is the one with the poisoned apple and seven dwarfs, right? No, that’s Snow White. Sleeping Beauty has a poisoned yarn spindle, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and the Gray Wolf.
Back to our own theater, the book begins with constructing a stage complete with proscenium arch, fly gallery, full stage crew and orchestra. It also includes plenty of behind the scenes insights, just like a Met HD presentation. There’s also a program for each production, complete with the players and synopsis of the plot.
Soon becoming popular worldwide, La Bohème opened on February 1, 1896, at the Teatro Regio in Turin. Italy. A young fellow named Arturo Toscanini was at the podium. The opera had its U.S. debut in Los Angeles in October 1897.
La Bohème collects vignettes of young arty types living in the Paris Latin Quarter of the 1840s. Acts I and IV take place in the garret digs of Rodolfo the poet, Marcello the painter, Schaunard the musician and Colline the philosopher. These four pals are poorer than dirt, but with bon homme galore.
In the book, each act has basic scenery, plus various poses of the principals depicting the evolving action. For instance, Act II’s Christmas Eve at the Latin Quarter’s Café Momus has our foursome celebrating with Rodolfo’s new BFF Mimi and Marcello’s old flame Musetta.
The plot thickens. As does the cast. Acts II and III include townsfolk, shopkeepers, street vendors (one sells Rodolfo a bonnet for Mimi), soldiers and a bunch of kids.
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015