The rumor was in the air for some time, as the auditions had been unofficially going on since last January, but the production repeatedly declined it. Now it is official: Jonathan Larson's award-winning musical Rent will enjoy its Italian premiere February 4, 2000 at Milan's Teatro Smeraldo. The show will be produced by Duke International, a society controlled by Luciano Pavarotti's young fiancée Nicoletta Mantovani and her friend Jenny Benedetti.
Ms. Mantovani was recently in charge of the organization of Pavarotti International 1999, a live benefit gala broadcast worldwide, when Luciano performed together with pop stars Mariah Carey, Boyzone, Zucchero and Joe Cocker. "I have fallen in love with Rent when I saw it together with Luciano in New York," she told reporters, "and we immediately decided to buy the rights to produce the show in Italy." Nicoletta Mantovani, who will marry Pavarotti as soon as his former wife Adua Veroni grants him divorce, is involved for the first time in theatre production. According to Ms. Mantovani, Pavarotti, who often played the role of Marcello in many productions of La Bohème around the world, took part to most auditions and his opinion was often determinant in the choice of cast members.
A few other details were announced at today's press conference in Milan. The show is scheduled to enjoy an eight-weeks residence at the 2000 seat Teatro Smeraldo thru March 26, and will go on tour in the 2000-2001 season. The Italian production of Rent will be directed by Michael Greif, the director of the original Broadway production for which he received nominations for the 1996 Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Direction of a Musical. Jonathan Larson's lyrics will be translated in Italian.
No details were given about the cast: auditions are still under way, in particular for the role of Mimi. It is certain, however, that there are no big stars involved in the production.
Rent originally opened to rave reviews at off-Broadway's 150-seat New York Theatre Workshop on February 13, 1996, and moved to Broadway's Nederlander Theatre on April 29 where it is still playing to sell-out audiences. The show won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. Set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Rent is loosely based on Puccini's La Bohème. The characters now are Mark, a filmmaker and the narrator, Roger, an HIV positive musician who wants to make a contribution before he dies, Mimi, a drug addicted dancer working in an S&M club, Angel, a drag queen and his lover Tom. All of them are concerned with making their downtown world understandable to the uptown world without selling out. Their love for one another is what makes their lives bearable. The London production of Rent opened last year at Shaftesbury Theatre. Author Jonathan Larson never enjoyed the success of his musical: he died of an aortic aneurysm in January 1996 on the night of the final dress rehearsal.
Other international events in the 1999-2000 season of Milan's Teatro Smeraldo include Hair, which will open on Sept. 21, Stomp, which will come back for a two weeks run on May 9, 2000 and Forever Tango, which will play from May 23 to June 11, 2000.
For further information about the Italian production of Rent call the Teatro Smeraldo box office at +39-02-48-00-77 or the press department at +39-02-65-75203.