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Blog entries tagged with The Two Foscari

Color, Costumes and The Two Foscari (Spanish Version)


Costume design by Mattie Ullrich

Artista Geogia O’Keeffe Dijo “encontre una forma de comunicarme con colores y figuras  que no puedo explicar con palabras” Concientemente o sin darnos cuenta  usamos color como una manera de expresar como nos sentimos dia a dia.. Color claramente juega un papel importante en nuestras vidas, diseño de vestuario no es diferente..

Si ya saben o no las noticias de la  proximo temporada.. L.A Opera va a presentar una production del compositor Verdi, Los Dos Foscari. La disenadora de vestuario es Mattie Ullrich, que tiene su sede fuera de Nueva York.   Me communiqué con Misty Ayres supervisora de vestuario, para platicar un poco de la production.

Misty me informa que los diseños de Mattie son una mezcla de la epoca de la edad media y la moda que esta ocurriendo hoy. Mattie prefiere los colores solidos, trabajando junto con textura y figuras.. con entusiasmo Misty me dijo que la gama de colores del diseño le recuerdan de los libros comicos.

Los colores pueden cambiar durante todo el show, llevando a la audiencia en un viaje visual, que muestra la transformacion y evolucion de los personajes. Usteds seran capaz de ver el estado mental de Lucrezia reflejado a traves del cambio de la gama de colores en su vestuario.  El color es tambien una manera de mostrar  el estado social de un personaje. Por ejemplo, durante el acto 1 en foscari, los hombres del coro visten de rojo y negro porque son nobles y sabios.

Color tambien ayuda a destacar  ciertos grupos de personajes. En foscari durante el acto 3 la escenografia tiene tonos apagados, integrando el conjunto, a excepcion de los artistas del circo, que seran en colores llamativos, distinguiendolos de los otros artistas en el escenario.

Misty tambien me informa algo interesante y divertido de esta produccion.. a Mattie no le gustan los botones.  Cuando vengan a ver Foscari  a ver si detectan cualquier otro tipo de cierre en el vestuario..

Los Dos Foscari se abre el 15 de septiembre,, nos vemos en el teatro..

LA Opera Off Grand Presents "The Two Foscari - In Concert" at the Segerstrom Center October 1

Firebreather from The Two Foscari

In our ongoing mission to bring the artistry of LA Opera to a wider audience, we’ve joined forces with the Segerstrom Center for the Arts to present a special LA Opera Off Grand performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s The Two Foscari (I Due Foscari) in Orange County.  On Monday, October 1 at 7:30pm, Plácido Domingo and the cast of our fully staged production, as well as the LA Opera Orchestra and Chorus, will present the rarely performed early Verdi masterpiece in a special concert performance under the baton of LA Opera Music Director James Conlon at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall (615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa CA 92626). Mr. Conlon will also speak at the free Preview Talk prior to the performance at 7:00pm. 

Tickets to the concert performance of The Two Foscari start at $40 and will go on sale to the public at www.SCFTA.org on August 5.

For more information about the concert performance or purchasing tickets, visit LA Opera.com

Venice, Verdi and "The Two Foscari" (by Mary Jane Phillips)

On the Grand Canal in Venice, the city operates boats as buses for public transportation. On the right and left banks of the Canal are rows of gorgeous houses, the celebrated palazzi, rising miraculously out of the water. Many have private docks and water-entrances, with gondolas and other vessels tied up at the piers. Dozens of other boats vie for space in the canal’s mainstream.

Suddenly, amid these wonders there stands a large palazzo, Ca’ Foscari, the marvel built on the Canal in the 1400s by Francesco Foscari, the Doge or ruler of Venice. He is a main character in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera The Two Foscari (I Due Foscari).

The Foscari palazzo, Ca’ Foscari, stands at the far right in this photograph by Carlo Naya, taken circa 1875.

(The Foscari palazzo, Ca’ Foscari, stands at the far right in this photograph by Carlo Naya, circa 1875.)

This seems like history, but for me Ca’ Foscari was a workplace. Living in Venice in the 1970s, I was teaching English as a second language in Adult Education in the palazzo. My students were several dozen pilots, sailors, dockhands, ticket-takers, janitors and other employees of the public boat system. I’m not sure what they learned, but from them I learned to speak Venetian, which is very different from Italian; and the Venetian language was also one of the first languages that four of my children learned.

Giuseppe Verdi and the Creation of The Two Foscari
Between 1842 and 1844, Verdi’s operas Nabucco, I Lombardi della Prima Crociata and Ernani won over audiences. And because of Verdi’s growing popularity, it was virtually certain that he would be invited to compose a work for one of Rome’s theaters. His commission for The Two Foscari came from the impresario of the Teatro Argentina.

Verdi had a great success in the early 1840s with Ernani, in part because Francesco Maria Piave, his librettist, a Venetian, was an experienced professional, having written texts for other composers. Piave’s librettos for Verdi and others contain transparent and remarkably beautiful lines. Indeed, few can match his texts for Rigoletto and La Traviata, to say nothing of La Forza del Destino. His lines are also found at their best in the heartbreaking phrase of young Jacopo Foscari, “Ecco la mia Venezia,” as he, dragged from a windowless prison cell, sees the city and the lagoon. In fact, nostalgia and grief over leaving Venice and his family eventually kill this character as he is being sent into exile. Another main character in the opera is Jacopo’s father Francesco Foscari, the Doge who is the ruler of Venice. Remarkably, a sculpture of Francesco still adorns the entrance to the Doge’s Palace where he is shown kneeling before the Lion of Saint Mark. To make the meaning of the image absolutely clear, the Lion has its paw on a large book that reads: “Peace be unto you, Mark, my evangelist.” (Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus.)

Francesco Foscari kneels before the Lion of Venice in a sculpture at the entrance of the Doge’s Palace.

(Photo by Richard Fischer)

The opera was created for the Teatro Argentina in Rome, and it had its world premiere on November 3, 1844. Verdi and Piave both were there to oversee rehearsals and early performances. Both were concerned with the production of the opera. Verdi disliked a lot about cities. When this opera was written, he dismissively referred to them as “capitals.” And he would say: “You, who live in the capitals.” He also sometimes would address friends or colleagues, accusing them of not understanding the problems of ordinary people because they lived in cities.

Piave was already familiar with Rome, where he had studied philosophy and rhetoric, and where his family had an extraordinary personal connection with Pope Gregory XVI. In fact, the librettist made a real name for himself in Roman literary and poetry societies, publishing essays and short novels and even translating some of the psalms. Loyal and good-natured, he was known as “that Goth from Venice,” with an unruly mop of auburn hair, a shaggy beard and a loud voice. All this meant that he was a big asset to Verdi.

The idea for writing The Two Foscari was Verdi’s. The composer described the subject as “beautiful, very beautiful, super-beautiful.” Work was already well underway in May 1844 when Piave sent Verdi the scenario he had written.

Then a revised version had to be sent to Rome to get the approval of the Pope’s censors, who virtually ruled the theaters. The papal censors were likely to veto any text that included regicide, treason against the state, offenses against God, the clergy or the church and, of course, adulterous love, “bawdiness and lewdness” and suicide. The censors would change characters as they liked, and rip plots apart. Poetic lines and even whole scenes were cut or rewritten or wrenched out of context. To Verdi’s and Piave’s relief, the censors approved the scenario of The Two Foscari without changing anything.

This was not an easy time for Verdi who had been ill and was often tired. Having tried to recover at home, he left for Rome, taking the ship from Livorno to Civitavecchia and riding out “a bad sea.” He arrived during the first week of October 1844. With him was Piave, who was returning to familiar territory. Up to then Verdi’s experience of cities had been limited to Milan, Genoa, Venice and Parma, so Piave and his connections gave Verdi an essential entrée to Roman literary and theatrical circles

One of Piave’s friends and mentors in Rome was Jacopo Ferretti, a respected older librettist and poet. He remained a man of sterling literary reputation as the author of librettos for Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola) and Donizetti’s L’Ajo nell’Imbarazzo, Il Furioso all’Isola di San Domingo and Torquato Tasso, among other works.

He knew Roman theaters at first hand and was therefore the right person to help Verdi and Piave in their situation.

The challenge can hardly be overstated. Virtually all the great Italian composers had presented successful premieres in Rome, many at the Teatro Torodinona, the Teatro Valle and the Teatro Argentina, so they could not afford to have a fiasco. The kind of fame that Donizetti and Rossini had won in the city was exactly what was needed in 1844. There can be no doubt that the support of Ferretti helped set the stage for a significant personal triumph for Verdi.

A letter from Rome, dated October 5, 1844, described the censors’ final clearance for the production. Verdi visited Ferretti and was about to begin rehearsals, and he reported that two other works were to precede The Two Foscari at the Argentina. And like every tourist, Verdi was impressed by the city: “I am going all around Rome and am astonished.”

On October 21, Piave sent news to a colleague in Venice: “Here we are, rehearsing Foscari, which will go onstage on the evening of November 3 and not before. The music (it seems to me) is worthy of Verdi and of his fame.” Artistically the composer was very much at an advantage, with a cast that included the versatile dramatic soprano Marianna Barbieri-Nini, who was later his Lady Macbeth, and Achille De Bassini, a reliable singer whom Verdi used in other productions.

From everything we know about the premiere of The Two Foscari, it seems the Roman audience did not give Verdi the success he was hoping for. People were critical of singers who “shouted,” the critics said, and even a fine artist like Barbieri-Nini was taken to task. According to one review, cited by Marcello Conati in La Bottega della Musica, the first-night audience did not applaud all the pieces in the opera; it particularly disapproved of one number in the first act, when the singers seemed in poor form, and the tenor so distressed that people wondered whether he could even finish the opera. As Julian Budden pointed out in his book The Operas of Verdi, the operagoers were also upset by the fact that the theater had raised the price of the tickets. Verdi got only seven curtain calls when he often got 20 or 30 in other places. The second night went better than the first because by then the singers were in control of their roles.

The greatest risk was that the opera was too tragic. Verdi’s later, well-known opinion was: “In operas that are inherently sad, if you aren’t careful, you end up in a mortuary.” Fortunately that is not what happened here. While Verdi was in Rome, he was honored by such dignitaries as Prince Don Alessandro Torlonia, who gave a sumptuous dinner party for him; and the City of Rome struck gold medals to mark his visit.

Mary Jane Phillips is the author of numerous books including Puccini: A Biography (2002) and the award-winning Verdi: A Biography (1996). She is a frequent contributor to Opera News and many other publications.

Acknowledgements: Julian Budden, Clare Ann Matz, Margaret Matz, Charles Matz III, the Royal Opera Convent Garden, William Weaver and Andrew Porter.


Verdi: Pater Familias (by James Conlon)

1813: The birth year of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner

1913: The birth year of Benjamin Britten

2013: The year LA Opera and the classical music world will mark these three anniversaries. Actually, 2013 will serve as the center line for observing these birthdates. We have already begun this process, and it will extend into 2014.

One could barely think of three composers who were personally and artistically so different. And yet, aside from their centenary celebrations, they have one enormous attribute in common. All three unquestionably stand at the zenith of their respective operatic cultures. In presenting The Two Foscari (I Due Foscari), in its first production in a major American opera house in 40 years, LA Opera brings to light an essential work from Verdi’s early period, which will be especially appreciated by Verdi lovers. This opera represents an important step in the development of Verdi’s style and musical vocabulary, in which he gradually transforms the inherited culture of Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini into a language of his own, quintessentially defining and personifying the Italian 19th century.

Composer Giuseppe Verdi

I Due Foscari is the sixth opera of Verdi’s 26 theatrical works (not counting several revised versions). Between his first opera, Oberto (1839), and Falstaff (1893) are 54 years. Foscari (1844) was written five years into that trajectory—in terms of works written, not yet a quarter of his ultimate output and in terms of years, less than ten percent of the way. It may be, by our standards, an “old-fashioned” opera. It certainly would have been considered as such by the composer himself. But we have come to measure the sophistication of Italian opera precisely by the yardstick Verdi has provided us through his extraordinary life’s productivity.

What it is easy for us to miss, in a first hearing, is actually how much there is that was new and significant at the time, starting with Verdi’s choice of subject. He recounts the story of the forced abdication of a great Venetian statesman (Francesco Foscari) resulting from an unseemly, clandestine intrigue by other Venetian nobles. (The Doge of the Venetian Republic was the head of state, and the word Doge is the Venetian form of the Latin word Dux, whence the English word duke and Mussolini’s self-appellation Duce). Considering that the work was intended to be premiered in Venice, this constituted an unacceptable affront to the nobility at large and to the still-prominent Foscari family. It was rejected as unsuitable, and Verdi later substituted it for a commission in Rome, where it was premiered.

After dispensing raw energy and occasional bombast in his early operas, he took a decisive step toward elegance and refinement. His third opera, Nabucco (1842), catapulted him to prominence as a daring young composer and, almost simultaneously, into a political hero.

Nabucco is to Verdi what Idomeneo is to Mozart, the “Eroica” Symphony to Beethoven, The Flying Dutchman to Wagner, and The Rite of Spring to Stravinsky: a quantum leap into the future. Verdi would continue a pattern of pushing his vocabulary forward with new forms and compositional procedures, followed by a work of consolidation. Foscari is a determined step towards intimate drama following larger-scaled works. It demonstrates a pattern he was to repeat nine years later, following the medieval and stormy Il Trovatore with the elegant Parisian “drawing room” romance of La Traviata.

Verdi concentrates the action of Foscari within a tight family unit: the aging Doge Francesco, his son Jacopo, persecuted by the intriguing nobles, and Jacopo’s devoted and courageous wife, Lucrezia Contarini (herself of noble blood). Venice is an alternatingly colorful and lugubrious background, one of the first examples of Verdi’s fascination with the political world and the ambiance of power. The first two words of the opera, an example of Verdi’s famous “parola scenica” (“the scenic word”), are “silenzio …mistero” (silence and mystery), which are said to reign over and to have protected Venice since its infancy. In contrast, the populace sings to Venice, the daughter, wife and mistress of the sea, as a mirror; the blue lagoon reflects the brightness of day, and the moon transforms its night into silver.

Verdi uses identifying motifs for his principal characters in a more consistent way than in his previous operas. His characteristic devotion to concision produces one of his shortest operas.

But by far the most important aspect of Foscari is the subject and the primacy of the father-son relationship. There is no question that the plight of the father is the single most central theme spanning Verdi’s entire output. Its absence in an opera is the exception rather than the rule. Psychobiography is a highly unreliable, if not an entirely unworthy, approach to analyzing works of art, but it is tempting to state the obvious. Verdi’s loss of his first wife and two infant children within 22 months between 1838 and 1840 clearly left its mark on the composer as well as the man.

His fathers are complex and multi-dimensional; few are stick figures of good or bad. Many of the fathers are unsympathetic by their actions, but win our compassion through their own sufferings, or incapacity to prevent their own tragic fates and/or those of their children: Nabucco, Count Walter (Luisa Miller), Rigoletto, Germont (La Traviata), Monfort (I Vespri Siciliani) King Phillip II (Don Carlo) and even the comic and blustering Mr. Ford, outdone along with Falstaff by his clearly superior-witted wife.

One might consider Miller, father of Luisa, and Simon Boccanegra to be the most enlightened and evolved fathers in the Verdian pantheon. Conversely, Amonasro (father of Aida) is the least sympathetic father, perhaps because he puts his role as king ahead of his role as father. He shares this dilemma with the father Foscari. In fact, one can see in Foscari the kernel of the future tragedies: the conflict between love and duty. Whether it is opposing national loyalties, as in Aida or I Vespri Siciliani, duties of state as in Un Ballo in Maschera, or Violetta’s choice between the dictates of her heart and the demands of the father of her beloved to conform to provincial bourgeois values, the polar forces of love and duty will be omnipresent throughout most of the Verdi corpus.

The Two Foscari is the first of the series of complex father-son relations, passing through I Masnadieri (with a good and bad son) and Luisa Miller (which will present a clear contrast between the “good” and the “bad” father­) on through Monfort and his son Henri until it finds its apotheosis in the portrayal of the monumentality failed relationship between King Philip II of Spain and his son Don Carlo.

Rare is the Italian opera that lacks the triangular love stories that provided the stuff of generations of competing sopranos, bleating tenors and vindictive, thwarted baritones. But Foscari foreshadows Macbeth in its total absence of love conflicts. It is significant that in Macbeth, a tale of regicide, the good King Duncan and the good father Banquo are murdered, but the story of their sons takes on great significance. The role of Macduff is essentially reduced to one aria, devoted to mourning his murdered children. Leonora’s father in La Forza del Destino appears only for several moments at the beginning of the opera, but his accidental death sets the entire drama that follows in motion.

Verdi’s lifelong preoccupation with and failed attempts to set King Lear may have many explanations, but it is noteworthy that the greatest of all tragic fathers in Shakespeare plays intimidated even the genius who had placed so many fathers on the stage. Of the tantalizing “what ifs” of operatic history, Verdi’s unwritten King Lear is the most frustrating.

The Foscari family trio is a unified and tragic entity, bound together by their implacable enemies’ thirst for vengeance. The conflict between paternal love and the demands of the crown break the will of the aging father; the death (murder) of his son breaks his heart. Only the commanding presence of Lucrezia remains alive at the end of the Foscari reign to face the victorious enemies of her family. Brought to its end by the silent and mysterious forces that ruled “la Serenissima,” the “Most Serene Republic of Venice,” the demise of the Foscari family shows that the “daughter, wife and mistress of the sea” was all but serene.

James Conlon is the Richard Seaver Music Director of LA Opera.




The Two Foscari: Fire Breather

A lot of attention has been given to the fire breather effect in our new production of The Two Foscari.

The fire breather, an experienced professional, enters the stage with a lit self-extinguishing torch. On a pre-determined musical cue he fills his mouth with liquid, then blows the liquid through the flame of the torch. 

The Two Foscari Fire Breather

The size of the fire ball is determined by the quantity of  liquid the fire breather expels. 

The Two Foscari Fire Breather

Development and testing of this effect have been taking place for months here at the LA Opera. LA Opera works closely with the Los Angeles Fire Department and acquires special permits for all open-flame effects like this. Extensive time was invested at the costume shop to optimize the fire breather’s costume.

The Two Foscari Fire Breather

At the conclusion of the effect the fire breather extinguishes the torch by releasing the “dead-man” switch on the handle of the torch. He then exits the stage, hands the torch to a union prop person and rinses his mouth. 

LA Opera On Air Begins Saturday, May 18

For the eighth consecutive year Classical KUSC brings you LA Opera On Air, Saturdays at 10am.  Each week you’ll hear a complete performance from LA Opera’s 2012/13 Season, recorded live at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  The series is hosted by KUSC’s Duff Murphy and continues to be made possible by a generous grant from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, spearheaded by the efforts of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

May 18
Giuseppe Verdi: The Two Foscari

The Two Foscari

Plácido Domingo and James Conlon join forces in a new production of this Verdi masterpiece. The languid canals and boisterous festivals of 15th-century Venice conceal a deadly web of secret plots and vindictive rivalries. Caught up in forces beyond their control, a father and son struggle to reclaim honor in a city that knows no mercy.

Plácido Domingo stars as a head of state, desperate to protect his son -- and himself -- from the ruthless enemies that surround them.

May 25
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni

The legendary seducer Don Juan returns in a production new to LA! Considered by many to be the greatest opera ever written, Don Giovanni deftly balances comedy and tragedy with unforgettable music.

Features a vividly theatrical staging by the legendary director Peter Stein, the smolderingly intense Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Don Giovanni, and LA Opera's rich tradition of Mozart's classics.

June 1
Giacomo Puccini: Madame Butterfly

A love that knows no boundaries goes horribly wrong in a fateful meeting of East and West. What begins as an idyllic liaison in an enchanting land of cherry blossoms turns into the heartbreaking tragedy of an abandoned bride forced to make an excruciating decision.

A stunning production, never before seen in Los Angeles, melds sumptuous costumes with evocative period scenery. From the acclaimed director of Il Postino, Ron Daniels.

June 8
Richard Wagner: Flying Dutchman

The legend of the ghostly ship condemned to wander the oceans forever has fascinated opera lovers - and more recently, movie lovers - for hundreds of years. An enthralling score, illuminated by striking stage imagery, powers a thrilling journey into an unsettling, mythic world where a tormented spirit seeks true love as his redemption.

James Conlon, one of the foremost Wagner interpreters of our time, leads a world-class cast in a mesmerizing production, new to Los Angeles, staged by the brilliant Nikolaus Lehnhoff.

June 15
Giochino Rossini: La Cenerentola (Cinderella)

In her impoverished stepfather's castle, a kindhearted girl dreams of escaping the tyranny of her vain stepsisters. When the prince announces that he will choose his bride at a glamorous ball, she seizes the opportunity to take control of her own destiny.

Rossini's warmhearted retelling of the Cinderella story is a delightfully romantic comedy, brought to life by the dazzling vocal fireworks of an exciting young cast and a production new to Los Angeles! Conducted by James Conlon.

June 22
Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

A fiery prima donna is forced to play a role she never imagined when she becomes trapped between her allegiance to her rebel lover and the scheming of a treacherous police chief who will stop at nothing in his lust for her. The explosive triangle comes to a hair-raising conclusion in one of opera's bloodiest, most intense dramas.

One of the most popular of all operas, Tosca is a passionate tale set to some of Puccini's most openly beautiful and passionate music.

For more information visit www.KSUC.org