Trieste's opera house, the Ente Lirico Teatro Verdi, recently announced the schedule of the 1998 edition of Trieste-Operetta, the first and only European festival devoted to the musical theatre, which will take place in the Northern Italian city between June 30 and Aug. 9.
The programme includes a mixture of traditional Viennese operettas and modern American musicals, including the Italian premiere of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Previous editions of the Festival saw premiere productions of Cabaret, West Side Story, Singin' in the Rain and various mountings of the most popular shows in the Austro-Hungarian operetta repertoire such as The Merry Widow, The Countess Maritza, The Waltz Dream and so on.
The festival will open June 30 with a revival of Teatro Verdi's 1992 production of Parata di Primavera (Spring Parade). Marika, a baker's assistant in old Vienna, falls in love with a handsome would-be composer who plays the drums in the army while waiting for his music to be appreciated. He eventually manages to play for a good hearted Emperor Franz Joseph, who likes the march and consents for the marriage between the two young lovers.
The show features a book by Ernest Marischka, a score by Robert Stolz and originally came out in 1940 as a film directed by Joe Pasternak and starring Deanna Durbin and Robert Cummings. The amusing and entertaining film received various Academy Award Nominations, including one for best song ("Waltzing in the Clouds"), but was beaten by Pinocchio's "When You Wish Upon a Star". Other hits in the score include "When April Sings", "It's Foolish But It's Fun", "In a Spring Parade", and "Blue Danube Dream". The film also knew a remake in the Fifties, starring Romy Schneider. The first stage version came as late as 1964, when the show was produced in Vienna.
The new Italian production of Spring Parade will be directed and choreographed by Andrea Paesler and feature scenes and costumes by Jurgen Aue. Fabrizio Ventura will direct the opera house's orchestra; Luigi Petrozziello features as the chorus master. Singers Cinzia Forte, Tiziana Caminiti and Roberto Bencivenga and actors Ugo Maria Morosi and Carlo Reali will play the leading roles and will be joined by the Teatro Verdi chorus and ballet. The Italian mounting of Cole Porter's Can-Can (currently playing in Milan) will run July 1 thru July 7 at Trieste's Sala Tripcovich. Produced by Tuttoteatro and directed and choreographed by Gino Landi (one of the great masters of the Italian "commedia musicale", and a frequent visitor of previous editions of Trieste's Festival), Can Can stars Mino Bellei as Judge Aristide Forestier, Benedicta Boccoli as Simone Pistache, Corrado Tedeschi as Francois and Enrico Beruschi as Monsieur Dupont. The show features sets by Roberto Comotti, costumes by Antonella Poletti, lighting by Enzo Ghinassi and Italian lyrics by Aldo Malinverni.
Can-Can was Cole Porter's penultimate Broadway stage musical. The show originally opened at the Shubert Theatre in 1953 and was a great success, running for more than two years and winning two Tony Awards for Michael Kidd's choreography and Gwen Verdon's performance in the role of Claudine. Abe Burrow's book was essentially a love story in which the participants get involved with an attempt by the city authorities to close down a Montmartre nightclub that features the outrageous can-can dance. Cole Porter's score includes a number of popular songs and two major hits, "C'Est Magnifique" and "I Love Paris". In 1988 Can-Can was revived in Chicago with Chita Rivera, and in New York and London with Donna McKechnie. The 1960 film version directed by Walter Lang starred Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine and Maurice Chevalier.
The Trieste Festival will turn again to the early 19th century European musical repertoire July 11, with a new mounting of Cin-ci-la, perhaps the most famous Italian operetta, written in the early Twenties by Carlo Lombardo and Virgilio Ranzato. Elena Berera will play the title role; Gennaro Cannavacciuolo and Riccardo Peroni will co-star. The show will be directed and choreographed by Roberto Croce, and feature scenes and costumes by Sergio D'Osmo. Guerrino Gruber will direct the Teatro Verdi Orchestra, while Luigi Pretroziello will be the chorus master.
One of the most expected events of the Festival, however, will be the opening, July 18 at Sala Tripcovich, of the first Italian mounting of the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Sette Spose per Sette Fratelli). The show will be directed by Saverio Marconi (Grease, A Chorus Line, Nine, West Side Story) and will feature scenes by Aldo De Lorenzo, costumes by Zaira De Vincentiis and choreography by Fabrizio Angiolini. The stage version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers features a book by Larry Kasha and David Landay, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Gene de Paul, new songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirshhorn, an Italian translation by Michele Renzullo and new orchestrations by Bruno Moretti. Leading the cast are pop singer Tosca (who recently dubbed the Italian version of the cartoon Anastasia), actor and dancer Raffaele Paganini and award winning Manuel Frattini (the latter starred in the recent Italian touring production of Singin' in the Rain). The show is a co-production between Trieste's Teatro Verdi and Tolentino's Compagnia della Rancia.
Adapted from Stephen Vincent Benet's short story The Sobbin' Women, which was inspired by Plutach's Rape of the Sabine Women, the show is the stage version of the famous 1954 MGM film, considered by many one of the all-time great musicals. Set in 1850s Oregon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tells the story of Adam Pontipee, who leaves his six scruffy brothers to the squalor of their farmhouse to go into town in search of a hard-working wife. He finds her in the shape of Milly, and their subsequent life together, during which Milly successfully advises the sextet on how to live and love, makes for an entertaining show. Her first "lesson" is "Goin' Co'tin", just one of the many musical highlights in Gene De Paul and Johnny Mercer's exuberant score. Others include "Bless Your Beautiful Hide", "Wonderful, Wonderful Day", "When You're in Love", "June Bride" and "Spring, Spring, Spring". All the six virile brothers eventually get their brides by somewhat unconventional methods, after displaying exceptionally brilliant dancing skills in the languorous "Lonesome Polecat" and spectacular "barn-raising" scenes.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers never enjoyed a considerable success on the stage: the 1982 Broadway production directed by Lawrence Kasha closed after five performances. Four years later, a West End version fared a little better, but never became a blockbuster. Director Saverio Marconi recently told PBOL that he is conceiving Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as a nice fairy tale: the show will have many special effects, there will be a live orchestra and a big cast. (read more in our interview).
The last show in the programme of the Festival will be another Viennese operetta, Franz Lehar's Il Conte di Lussemburgo (The Earl of Luxembourg), which will open Aug. 1 at Teatro Verdi. Opera singers Bruno Lazzaretti and Chiara Taigi will be joined by actors Chiara Noschese, Gianna Coletti, Ugo Maria Morosi and Alessandro Spadorcia. The show will be directed by Ivan Stefanutti, and feature choreography by Roberto Croce. Julian Kovatchev will direct the Teatro Verdi Orchestra.
Performance schedule will be as follows:
Spring Parade (at Teatro Verdi) June 30, July 4, 10, 14 at 20.30 July 12, 19 at 18.00
Can-Can (at Sala Tripcovich) July 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 at 20.30 July 5 at 18.00
Cin-ci-la (at Teatro Verdi) July 11, 15, 21, 25, 31 at 20.30 Aug. 2 at 18.00
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (at Sala Tripcovich) July 18, 22, 23, 24, 28 at 20.30 July 26 at 18.00
The Earl of Luxembourg (at Teatro Verdi) Aug. 1, 4, 5, 6, 8 at 20.30 Aug. 9 at 18.00
Ticket prices range from 15.000 to 70.000 Italian lire (8,50 - 40 US dollars). For further information call the box office at +39 40 67.22.500. Postal application is available writing to "Biglietteria del Festival - Teatro G. Verdi, Riva III Novembre, 1 - 34121 Trieste, Italy" or faxing to +39 40 67.22.249. Further information on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is available visiting the Musical che spettacolo! website.
--By Stefano Curti