Nino Rota: The millionaire NaplesNino Rota: The millionaire NaplesReview of Nino Rota’s opera The millionaire Naples. The performance presented at this year’s Miskolc Opera Festival by the Teatro del Giglio of Lucca was the first performance of this work in Hungary. It was a full house at the Summer Theatre of Miskolc. Of course, the Oscar winner Nino Rota (1911-1979) is principally known for his film scores. He often worked with Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti, among others, and composed music for the films La dolce vita, Roma, La strada, Otto e mezzo, or Godfather (for the second part of which he was awarded an Oscar), among others, the list is very long.

However, it is not so well-known, that – besides several other vocal and instrumental works – Rota composed operas, too, and not only a few: eleven in number. The millionaire Naples presented now at the Miskolc Opera Festival was his last one written in the 1970s. The first performance of this three-act opera was in Spoleto with Bruno Bartoletti conducting.

The libretto of the opera was written by writer and stage-director Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1984), who is very popular in Italy, and whose text was based on his own play of the same title. De Filippo was one of the leading figures of the Italian cultural life in the 20th century. It is especially interesting, that in 1950 he already adapted to the screen his own play written some years earlier, and the music of that film was also composed by Nino Rota. Who decided only much later to compose an opera from De Filippo’s story, using his own music written for the film. A fruitful cooperation.

Nino Rota: The millionaire NaplesNino Rota: The millionaire NaplesThe millionaire Naples was always welcomed by the audience, but not so much by the critics, who - in a fever of the avantgarde art movements of the 1970s – did not find it enough modern. Because of his popular film scores it was easy to stigmatize Rota as a composer of hit songs, as someone who has no place in the genre of ’serious’ music. Since then the situation has changed considerably, and the opera is regularly performed in Italy, but presented in Hungary for the first time.

Besides The millionaire Naples the composer has one other opera called Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, which is also part of the repertoire of the Italian theatres, and is generally considered Rota’s best opera.

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The millionaire Naples shows the world of Italian lower middle class people after World War II, more precisely the ruined life of an Italian family. It is a tragic story, interlarded with ironic, often humorous or, rather, tragicomic elements.

After the ouverture of an ominous tone we find ourselves in the home of a simple Neapolitan family. Gennaro Iovine, the paterfamilias is an unemployed tram conductor. With his wife, Amalia they have a number of children, two of them are already young adults. They are eating macaroni, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, quarrelling, and as we learn, trade in the black market, too. The unemployment is very high, but the family is big, and one has to make a living somehow.

A local policeman arrives unexpectedly, but the family has already prepared for the visit in time: Gennaro is playing dead, and the family is grieving for him sitting around his bed. The policeman sees through this – during his raid that day he has already met several ’dead’ paterfamilias – and orders the Gennaros to stop pretending. After a long pleading they finally make an agreement, and Gennaro gets up from his ’deathbed’ feeling relieved.  

Meanwhile the war is already going on, which the inhabitants of Naples acknowledge and do not acknowledge. The city is being bombed – what is more, coffee and cigarette is more and more difficult to get -, so it is not easy for the family, but this family is still in one piece. It is still ’working’.

However, Gennaro is taken to the front.

Nino Rota: The millionaire NaplesNino Rota: The millionaire NaplesWhile he is away, everything changes. Amalia, his wife has a lover. Her suitor is the local pretty boy, Enrico Settebellizze (a ’speaking’ name), the unemployed driver, who is well known in the gangdom of Naples. Amalia cannot resist the man, and she does not even hide it from her family members and her neighbours anymore. The city is full of American soldiers – and Neapolitan girls, of course. Some young soldiers are stepping in the house of the Gennaros, where Maria Rosaria and her girlfriends are waiting for them. ’O sole mio’ – the drunk Americans are singing and dancing, having fun and snogging with the girls all night. Finally Maria Rosaria remains alone with her lover, Peter. They do not speak each other’s language, and Maria does not understand why the man is calling her ’Butterfly’ all the time… In the end the girl – who is already pregnant by the soldier - does not need to understand the words anymore to realize: the man is going to leave for America in some days, back to his wife.

Gennaro’s son, Amadeo has become a criminal. He plays on a grand scale, the police is looking for him.

This is the home, where Gennaro arrives back wearily. His wife greets him coldly. The others welcome him, but he does not understand, what is going on, and the others do not understand him, either. He is trying to speak about the war and the horrors of captivity, but no one is listening to him. They only drop a remark, ’The war is over’, but the man is repeating again and again: ’No, the war is not over…’. This is the most important sentence of the piece. The war may be over ’officially’, but its consequences are unforseeable. The father desperately tries to comprehend, what is happening. Nothing is the same anymore, his wife has a lover, his son is a criminal, his daughter is pregnant by an American soldier, the family is fallen apart.

In the last scene they are all together. Enrico Settebellizze, Amalia’s lover also arrives and greets Gennaro, the ex-serviceman slightingly. The neighbours are also coming over, and a feasting, a revelry is being held - Enrico Settebellizze and Gennaro’s son ’earn’ enough money for this illusory well-being. Gennaro is sitting slumped on a chair, and does not understand this carousal around him.

The police is suddenly forcing the door upon them and in the gunfight Amadeo is shot. Amalia despairingly falls on her dead son. The war is not over…

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The stage-setting is very simple, but impressive (stage-director: Fabio Sparvoli). This simlicity follows from the locale, of course. We are in the home of a typical Neapolitan family, there is a long table, there are some beds and some chairs in the room having grey walls. The characters are dressed up in the style of the age. It is a realist direction creating an authentic atmosphere, and it would really be unnecessary to reinterpret this story.

The stage is dimly lit (I admit, it took some time for me to get used to it), but it was also part of the stage-director’s concept, as the story takes place in a poorly lit, narrow Neapolitan passage-way, in a ground-level flat.

The music of the opera is full of grandiose melodies interlarded with jazzy, swingy parts and dance. It is not a very complicated, but a well structured, clean, impressive music. A ’light Puccini’, I could say, trying to be facetious, but it would be unfair. As regards its dramatic force and elaboration, Rota’s music is no match for the operas of the great predecessor, but it is a very well composed work, which has rightly become popular among a wider audience, too, thanks to its effectiveness in creating atmosphere and its rich melodies.

Nino Rota: The millionaire NaplesNino Rota: The millionaire NaplesIt is unbelievable, how many good singers can be found in Italy even in the ’second line’. Solid knowledge of style, voice - which is indispensable in operas based on the traditions of Italian bel canto - and confident acting were the characteristics of every singer. Vocally Amalia’s part is the most demanding – it was sung by Gaia Matteini – and this is the most interesting character, as well. An excellent tenor is needed for the role of Settebellizza. Though Italy is the land of tenors, this time the pretty boy was impersonated by a young Georgian singer, Armaz Darashvili. Their duet in the second act was one of the climaxes of the performance. The role of the father was portrayed credibly by Giampiero Cicino, and I also have to mention the names of Paola Santucci playing Maria and Stefano Trizzino in the role of the American lover.

The choreography in the musical-like scene of the dancing American soldiers and the Italian girls was also superb. 

The Miskolc Symphony Orchestra was playing in perfect harmony with the young Maestro Matteo Beltrami, who was conducting confidently and animatedly. The Choir of the Miskolc National Theatre was also participating in this cooproduction.

After the tragic ending of the opera, during the enthusiastic applause the curtain was raised again, but instead of bowing the singers remained motionless, as if they had not ended the performance yet. This ’performance’ was over only some minutes later, but this time there was already a relief and a joy on the faces of the performers.

 

’I'd do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That's what's at the heart of my music.’ – said the composer, Nino Rota once. I believe him.

 

Balázs Csák
(www.operaportal.hu)

 

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Nino Rota:

The millionaire Naples (Napoli millionaria)

 

Opera in three acts

 

Libretto by Eduardo De Filippo based on his own play of the same title.

Publisher: Schott Music GmbH & Co KG, Mainz

Publisher in Italy: Sugarmusic SpA - Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, Milano

Set and costume: Alessandra Torella

Light: Marco Minghetti

Conductor: Matteo Beltrami

Stage director: Fabio Sparvoli

 

Cast:

Gennaro Iovine - Giampiero Cicino

Amalia, his wife - Gaia Matteini

Maria Rosaria, their daughter - Paola Santucci

Amedeo, their son - Saverio Pugliese

Errico Settebellizze - Armaz Darashvili

Peppe - Veio Torcigliani

Riccardo Spasiano - Juan José Navarro

Federico - Antonio Sapio

The half priest - Gianluca Tumino

Pascalino - Antonino Schifaudo

Ciappa - Giuseppe Pellingra

Peter, american soldier - Stefano Trizzino

Adelaide Schiano - Marta Lotti

Assunta - Alessandra Masini

Donna Peppenella - Raluca Pescaru

Donna Vincenza - Teresa Gargano

Rituccia - Kőhegyi Anna

 

Performed by the Miskolc Symphony Orchestra, the Choir of the Miskolc National Theatre

 

Répétiteur: Salvatore Galante, Loredana Scalcione
Stage master: Guido Pellegrini
Production secratary: Susanna Buttiglione
Stage techniques, design: Luca Barsanti
Chief stafe technician: Andrea Natalini
Chief lighting designer: Tiziano Panichelli
Stage props: Daniela Giurlani
Tailoring coordination: Sartoria Teatrale Fiorentina di Massimo Poli (Massimo Poli’s Theatre Tailoring of Florence)
Make-up and wigs: Sabine Brunner

Production of set: Laboratorio del Teatro del Giglio di Lucca
Costume: Costumi d'Arte srl, Roma
Props: E. Rancati, Milano
Shoes: Pedrazzoli-CTC, Milano
Wigs: Artimmagine, Napoli

A new production of Teatro del Giglio di Lucca.
Cooproduction of LTL OperaStudio Project (Teatro C. Goldoni di Livorno, Teatro del Giglio di Lucca, Teatro di Pisa).

 

 

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