Opera houses should open their doors to the masterpieces of the musical theatre. This is the provocative proposal launched Mar. 30 in a "Corriere della Sera" editorial by opera critic Francesco Maria Colombo.
(In paraphrase) The American musical theatre, writes Colombo , has produced since the Twenties an incredible number of true geniuses such as Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, all of them punctually and disgracefully ignored by the opera houses, where only the "official music" is generally performed. Looking back at the history of our century, continues Colombo, one should keep in mind the huge difference between those mere onanistic avant-guarde experiments, in front of non-existing audiences, and those highly entertaining shows full of life and energy playing to sell-out theatres. Colombo finally argues that there is not less art, less rigour, less beauty and less "style" in Cole Porter's Night and Day than, for example, in Stockhausen's Montag aus Licht.
The "Corriere della Sera" editorial seems to be a direct consequence of the recent booming success of musicals in Italy. With A Chorus Line opening tonight, Apr. 1, at Milan's Teatro Nazionale, with the record-breaking Italian production of Grease! opening Apr. 21 at Rome's Teatro Sistina after a highly successful two seasons sell-out run in Milan, and with a number of interesting touring productions including Irma la Douce, and Cole Porter's Can Can, the musical theatre is becoming one of the most popular genres in Italy.
However, the 13 heavily subsidised Italian opera houses, each with resident orchestras, choruses and ballets, rarely include musicals in their seasons. With the exception of Turin's Teatro Carignano, with a new production last December, of Bernstein's Candide and of Trieste's Teatro Verdi, with its summer festival specifically dedicated to Viennese operettas and American musicals, most opera houses continue to perform and invest their large budgets exclusively in the traditional repertoire of Puccini, Verdi, Mozart and Wagner.
--By Stefano Curti