Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

Posts Tagged ‘Arrigo Boito

Embracing my Geek!

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…well, I’m embracing my Geek -as come to find out, I get rather squirrelly when it comes to things opera -but especially when it comes to things touching on Verdi, his contemporaries and associates..
On the bookshelves in the back of my mind, I keep a catalogue of operas that I would love to find recordings of, as they are, invariably, operas no one would ever do live -being too obscure; too costly; too much of a dig into musical depths of history..!
Foremost on my list is an opera that was written by Franco Faccio.
Faccio was a schoolmate of Arrigo Boito; Boito came to be the librettist for Verdi, and created the librettos to two of the maestro’s greatest works: Otello and Falstaff, both after Shakespeare..
-but Faccio; I knew that Boito had written a libretto, based on Hamlet (Amletto) for faccio, who composed an opera from it – charting a course of much tribulation, and no more than two serious productions, which did not come off very well; but Boito, and Verdi as well, had great faith in Faccio (who, incidentally, went on to be an amazing conductor; on the podium at the premieres of Verdi’s operas Aida and Otello).
..-sorry- (squirreling about in the Geek)..
It has been many years that this work has intrigued me, especially for all the godparents at its birth.. But I’d never imagined coming across anything on the opera .. as it’s far too obscure..
So imagine my surprise in receiving a flier from Opera Delaware (-who- honestly- I’d never signed up to received anything from) alerting me to their season this year – which includes a full production of Faccio’s opera AMLETTO!!
..the history alone and convolutions of this work’s inception and initial productions, makes this event of great importance..

And as Washington National Opera mount their Ring cycle, it is also heartening to know that there remain companies who wish to investigate .. adventurous ..if potentially ruinous, journeys which resonate full of the ‘unknown’.. and envelope a willing audience in the rich tapestry of Italian opera history.. Thank you, Opera Delaware!



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…though the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, life seems not to always offer that option. In fact, straight lines tend to only work on paper.

Teaching had never been in the plot of the course I’d laid out for myself. But here I am, a Guest Artist teacher, working with elementary school kids, and teaching them how to create their own librettos, as they create their own operas.

This year’s opera that students had to deconstruct, to construct a resonant alternative to, was Verdi’s Falstaff –a comedy, but a very well written, grown up one, whose libretto was crafted by a librettist, Arrigo Boito, at the top of his ability, collaborating with a composer at the peak of his acuity.

Shakespeare may have been the kickoff point for both composer and librettist, but for the five elementary school classes I worked with, humor came from their own well of imagination.

Here is a taste of the storylines that they came up with.

From a 5th grade class: Falstaff is a girl, named Falstaffa, who lives a very lazy life of self-indulgence. After ignoring her mother’s instruction to clear up her room, Falstaffa is told to make her home somewhere else! Leaving the house, Falstaffa can only focus on the rumbling of her stomach, and decides that she can think about a place to stay later, but at the moment –where to eat is a priority! She decides to call up one of her boyfriends and get him to take her out to dinner. She does so, and the suggestion goes down so well, that she decides ‘two meals’ would be better than one, and so she calls another boyfriend, and finds herself being taken out to two meals –at the same restaurant! The result is a comedy of pride, gluttony, and very bad manners, but comes to an appropriate resolution of both boyfriends handing Falstaffa the check, and then leaving her.

From a 4th grade class: Falstaff works at Dunkin’ Donuts. One morning, as he’s putting out the donuts, he decides that they look too good not to have a taste. He takes a bite out of one, then another, putting them back having satisfied his need for a nibble. Alice and Meg come in, and Falstaff winds up serving them the two donuts he’s bitten into! The ladies call over the Manager, who berates Falstaff, and then fires him. As he leaves, all Falstaff can do is bemoan the fact that he won’t have free donuts to taste anymore. The ladies overhear this, and determine that he’s not learned enough of a lesson; they follow him home, and observe Falstaff, sitting in his living room, pining for his lovely donut tasting job. He remembers the variety of tastes he would have in a shift, and is suddenly doing his ‘donut dance’! The ladies, observing this, decide to make mischief; they call him on the phone, and say that they’ve been told that he loves donuts, and that they are producing a donut commercial the next day, and want him to come and be the spokesperson. Falstaff is delighted, and agrees. The next day, Meg and Alice get their accomplices together: there are 2 camera people, a few dancers, and Alice’s husband, Mister Ford. They are all put into whacky costumes, and wait for their victim. When Falstaff comes, Alice tells him that he is going to be tempted by a gazillion donuts, but to have one he has to make them all laugh. They will film him trying to make them laugh, and that will be the commercial. Falstaff is eager, and the temptation begins! The extras circle the seated Falstaff, each holding a box, of a dozen variety pack, of Dunkin’ Donuts! The smell is intoxicating, and Falstaff tries everything he can to grab one of the passing donuts –but fails at every attempt. Soon, the effort is too much, and he is weakened by the smell of all those lovely, tasty donuts, passing right under his nose! He begins to sway with hunger and delirium. As Meg and Alice lean in to whisper, in both of his ears, “I am greedy”, and “I am selfish”, Falstaff begins to repeat the words, almost swooning with hunger. Soon he has the rhythm of the chant, and is swaying, crooning out his worst characteristics –to the approving laughter of everyone else. Realizing that he’s finally got them all laughing, Falstaff launches into his ‘donut dance’, as the camera people film him, and the others put him in a ‘tv frame’, showing the moment caught for You Tube!

..working with these various creative, imaginative, young collaborators may not have been in my original line of vision, but the unexpected has definitely enriched the journey!

(Everything in the world’s a jest.

Man is born a jester

buffetted this way and that

by his beliefs or his reason.

We all are figures of fun.

Every mortal laughs at the others.

But he laughs best

who has the final laugh.]