Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Opera Buffa in Due Atti

peter HILLIARD, composer
matt BORESI, librettist
Don Imbroglio was selected as a Next Link participant in the 2005 New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Chosen from a competitive field of 400 entries, Don Imbroglio was a sold-out, extended, critically acclaimed hit on 42nd Street! To find out more, check out the official site at www.donimbroglio.com

Created under the auspices of the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, New York University, 2002. Developed by the Lark Theatre Company, New York City.
Don Imbroglio is a full length opera buffa about the mafia. It is at once a rigorous and thorough investigation of the form of late 18th and early 19th century opera buffa and a broad, audience friendly farce. It is designed to complement or replace for a season the standard operas buffa in the operatic canon, with the idea that any opera company capable of performing Le Nozze Di Figaro or Il Barbieri di Siviglia could easily mount it, and be assured a warm reception by both opera aficionados and novices alike.

For the novice, the opera is an accessible introduction to opera in general, and to opera buffa specifically. Because the character types of opera buffa are present in almost all modern farces, including situation comedies, an average audience member is quite familiar with the style of comedy in this piece, with its broad slapstick physical humor and its easy delivery. Musically, there are rousing choruses and memorable snatches of music that an audience will find itself humming upon leaving the theater. Every effort has been made to create parts that performers can make their own. The orchestra does not make all the dramatic decisions for them. As a consequence, a truly organic comedic experience emerges that entertains even that person in the audience who came thinking opera is boring and lifeless. On the surface, the piece is not difficult to understand, and the complete newcomer to opera will find much to like in the piece.

For the season-ticket holder, the piece holds interest on a number of levels. The piece is peppered with musical quotations, some obscure, some extremely recognizable. Some of these quotations are for purely comic effect. Others act as a sort of cliff’s notes to the piece. If the listener can recognize a snatch of Don Giovanni or Seraglio here and there, it stands as a clue to the origin of the type being played out on stage. In addition, many of the scenes bear formal resemblance to very famous opera scenes the average opera-goer would be familiar with. For example, in one scene, the heroine is being pursued by a lecherous old man, a scene quite familiar to anyone who has seen Il Barbieri, Le Nozze, Don Pasquale, Don Giovanni, or Il Seraglio.

For the opera expert, the piece offers the interest of a completely new approach to a very old idea. The writers hoped to avoid Wagnerian operatic techniques as much as possible, and discover new ways of using old techniques. Don Imbroglio uses Arias, Recitatives, and Ensembles precisely the way Mozart would have used them structurally, but in a way he never would have used them stylistically. In the foreground, one might find anything from Vaudeville to twelve-tone to aleatory techniques, but in the background such devices as key-area chiasmus common in Mozart operas are employed. Whereas neo-classicist operas like The Rakes Progress concerned themselves with form simply for its own sake, this piece shares the spirit of the old forms along with the letter of their execution. In other words, the formal elements that resemble Mozart and Rossini are used in the service of a rollicking good time, just as the masters used the techniques themselves. In the second act, the characters are forced to put on a late 18th century opera buffa, and a complete, mini-opera-buffa is pastiched, right down to the recitative in Italian. Even when the music is at its most adventurous, it pays homage to the great writers of this tradition by using the very techniques they proved effective over 150 years ago. And on a lower note, there are music history jokes about everything from Salieri to Verismo that any DMA would find entertaining.

In short, Don Imbroglio is the quintessential crossover piece. It is about laughter and beautiful singing, opera and family, love and pastry. It was written to be the sort of people’s opera that opera used to be.
Don Imbroglio is a mafia don with problems. The FBI and IRS have cracked down on his front organization, the non-existent Staten Island Grand Opera, and if he doesn’t produce an opera quickly, the entire family will go to jail. Meanwhile, his daughter Angelica, herself a collegiate operatic soprano, has brought her boyfriend Cesar home to meet the family for the first time to attend the wedding of her hot-headed brother Dante. Cesar, unaware of the “family” secret, stumbles upon Chastity, the heart-broken mistress of Dante. Soon he is being violently pursued by Dante, who is, in turn, pursued by his angry new bride, Donna.

The Don’s lecherous consigliere, Lascivo, has his eyes on Angelica, and schemes to make sure the Don does go to jail, so Lascivo can take over the business and make his moves on Angelica. Soon, the entire cast is out for one another’s blood, but succeed only in “whacking” the Don’s beloved cat, Figaro.

After a brief but tearful funeral for his cat, the Don moves on to business matters… the opera must go on, and with the help of Angelica and the hapless Cesar. They decide to produce a buffa, Pietro Fiasco’s “La Cosa Nostra”, performed in Italian with sur-titles written on the fly by their Mafioso cousin Rocco from Cicero, Illinois. Despite Lascivo’s efforts to undermine it, and everyone’s continued bloodlust, the show is a “hit”, and love, family, and opera, rule the day.

Don Imbroglio - mafioso....................Baritono

Angelica Imbroglio - his daughter.....Soprano

the new bride of

Dante Imbroglio - the extremely
licentious son of the Don........................Tenore

Cesar - a tenor......................................Tenore

Chastity - Dante’s goumada.................Mezzo Soprano

Lascivo - the Don’s consiglieri..............Baritono

Joey “No Name” Nero
professional hit-man..............................Basso Profundo

Figaro - a cat........................................Muto

Pasquale - a cat...................................Muto

Protesters - Federal Agents.................Coro

Projected Orchestration:
2 Flutes, 2 Oboe, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 French Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Timpani, 1 Mandolin, Strings

Running Time: One hour, 45 minutes.