Golden Age, Terrence McNally's Backstage Play of Musical Passion, Opens in NYC Premiere
By Kenneth Jones
Manhattan Theatre Club's New York City premiere of Golden Age, four-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally's play about the world of composer Vincenzo Bellini, opens Dec. 4 following previews from Nov. 15, with Emmy Award nominee Lee Pace ("Pushing Daisies") as the nervous 19th-century Sicilian composer whose opera I Puritani is receiving its Paris world premiere in 1835.
Performances play Off-Broadway at New York City Center – Stage I at 131 W. 55th Street. Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham plays aging Italian composer Rossini, who makes a surprising and inspiring appearance late in the play. What comes before focuses on Bellini's backstage nerves and hopes as the ensemble of opera personalities — tenor, soprano, bass, baritone, patron — spins around him, sharing his quest to balance ideas of art, love, greatness, anonymity and immortality.
Golden Age — seen earlier in separate productions in Philadelphia and Washington, DC — is directed by Tony winner Walter Bobbie (Chicago). The limited engagement also stars Dierdre Friel, Coco Monroe (as a boy Page), two-time Emmy and two-time Tony Award winner Bebe Neuwirth, Ethan Phillips, Lorenzo Pisoni, Will Rogers and Eddie Kaye Thomas.
According to MTC, "Its opening night of Vincenzo Bellini's new opera I Puritani in Paris, and the Italian composer is determined to win the adulation of not only his audience, but his colleagues and rivals as well. When the curtain falls, will a thunderous ovation cement his prominence? Or has Bellini unwittingly composed his own swan song? Blending 21st-century language with the timeless beauty of 19th-century bel canto opera, Terrence McNally's new play portrays the final act of an artist whose desire for greatness has eclipsed all else."
McNally, an opera maven whose plays Master Class and The Lisbon Traviata also touch on classical music, returns to one of his artistic homes for this production. MTC's Stage I was the site of many of his successes, including Lips Together, Teeth Apart. McNally is a four-time Tony Award winner (Master Class, Ragtime, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Kiss of the Spider Woman).
The creative team includes Santo Loquasto (scenic design), Jane Greenwood (costume design), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting design), Ryan Rumery (sound design) and Tom Watson (hair & wig design). Cyrille Blackburn is the stage manager.
Neuwirth ("Cheers," Chicago, Sweet Charity) plays soprano Maria Malibran (Bellini's muse, late in her career); Pisoni (Humor Abuse) plays swaggering baritone Antonio Tamburini; Rogers (as Bellini's companion and benefactor Francesco Florimo) and Thomas (as tenor Giovanni Rubini) were in Bobbie's cast of the 2011 world premiere of The Submission Off-Broadway; Phillips, playing bass Luigi Lablache, was in Broadway's November and My Favorite Year; Friel, as the wide-eyed soprano who gets a touching marriage proposal in mid-play, appeared in Broadway's Leap of Faith and Second Stage's Dogfight. George Morfogen replaces Abraham (who has a previous commitment) starting Dec. 11.
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