Anyone can don a metal helmet or mixing bowl, scream out "Ho-jo-to-ho" and pretend to be Brunnhilde summoning the Valkyries. It's a cheap joke, the sort done by and for someone who hates opera.
This is not the sort of humor you will find in a performance by La Gran Scena Opera, which returns to New York for four performances Thanksgiving week. For the last decade and a half the all-male troupe has been presenting sendups of opera similar in tone to such other all-male productions as Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo or the early-'90s Off-Broadway musical Pageant in that the performers not only have a knack for comedy but are completely knowledgeable about the art form they are spoofing.
"The all-male troupe La Gran Scena skewers classics to show that loving opera and laughing at it are one and the same. [They are] connoisseurs who, even in falsetto and falsies, have a keen understanding of the magnificent excess that makes this art form so compelling," wrote music critic Charles Michener in Time magazine.
The troupe's newest sendup, Vera . . . Life of a Diva, is the sturm und drang-ish life story of La Gran Scena's beloved prima donna, Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh -- played by the company's founder and artistic director, Ira Siff. Other roles are played by Keith Jurosko, Philip Koch, Kyle Church Cheseborough, and Patrick Jones.
The show is conceived, written, and co-directed (with Peter Schlosser) by Siff. Vera . . . Life of a Diva, will be performed at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 68th St. between Park and Lexington avenues in New York. Performances are Nov. 25 at 8 PM; Nov. 28 at 8 PM; Nov. 29 at 8 PM; and Nov. 30 at 7 PM. For tickets, call (212) 772-4448.
-- By Rebecca Paller