Tuesday, June 26, 2007

O Mio Direttorino Caro

The announcement that Woody Allen will be directing a production of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi (William Friedkin will direct the other two one-act operas that make up Puccini's trilogy Il Trittico) seems to me to make a lot of sense. Placido Domingo's attempts to get big-name movie directors at the L.A. Opera has been dismissed as a publicity stunt, and sometimes it's just a bad idea (see Marshall, Garry). But generally I'd rather see a good movie director's take on a classic opera than many of the people who direct operas on a regular basis.

A movie director, even one without opera experience, knows how to do two things: co-ordinate a big production with a lot of elements to it (even a low-budget production like most of Woody Allen's movies is "bigger" than the average stage play), and how to fit action to music. When you cut action to pre-recorded music, as Allen does in both his good and bad movies, that's training for opera, where the director has to understand how to stage action that goes with the music instead of fighting against it.

There have been many major movie directors who also directed a lot of opera -- Visconti, most famously, also Tarkovsky, Bergman -- but not so many U.S. directors. Or at least it seems that way offhand. John Ford once told a story that the Metropolitan Opera asked him to direct a production of Puccini's The Girl of the Golden West. He turned them down, he said, because he thought Girl of the Golden West was "a lousy opera," but he told the management that if they wanted him for another opera, like La Boheme, he was available. He never heard back from them, he said; they were willing to let a director of Hollywood Westerns loose on Girl of the Golden West, but nothing else. Of course, as with many stories told by Ford and other Hollywood directors, it's an open question as to how much of that is true (it certainly sounds plausible, though).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What, not Madama Butterfly?