Monday, September 19, 2011

Franco Zeffirelli brings opera to the Middle East

Franco Zeffirelli has been directing plays, films, and operas for more than 60 years. During his legendary career, he has worked with many stars at many venues ... that's certainly a given. But now, the 88 year old Maestro is bringing his directorial expertise to a very unlikely place. Muscat, Oman.

Royal Opera House Muscat
Variety reports that Zeff is bringing Puccini's Turandot to the new Royal Opera House Muscat where, on Oct. 12, the fable will become the first opera ever to play in the Persian Gulf.

From the Variety report:
Zeffirelli sees the Turandot gala, which will be a hot ticket in the entire region, as a cultural milestone of sorts.

"They have overcome their post-Sept. 11 fear of being marginalized, and now they are opening up to Western culture," he says.

Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, who is leader of the emirate, is a longtime classical music and opera buff. He chose Zeffirelli to open this doorway for opera in the Gulf after admiring the maestro's work last year at Italy's Arena di Verona.

The Omani ruler picked
Turandot ... as his operatic ice-breaker over Verdi's La Traviata which, as the title suggests, is about a fallen woman. Her whirlwind romance might not have been appropriate as the first opera to play in the region.
I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that in the next paragraph, the author shows his clear lack of operatic knowledge. Sorry - but, it's these little things that just get right under my skin like a bad splinter. The paragraph reads:
"When we had discussions in Oman last year during Ramadan, I found that she (Traviata) was a more difficult figure for them," Zeffirelli recounts.
I assume that what the author meant to insert was not "she (Traviata)", but rather "she (Violetta)".

Woops.

Franco Zeffirelli
For the upcoming Turandot, Zeff is already having to find a replacement for his Calaf. Sadly, he is having to replace tenor Salvatore Licitra, who recently died from complications following a Vespa Accident. "He was so full of enthusiasm; with no equals, or anyone even coming close," Zeff said.

Putting sadness aside...

In true Zeffirelli form, he can't let a single media outlet pass him by without firing a shot across the bow at the Met.
Zeffirelli ... laments that the Met recently started phasing out some of his classic productions, including Traviata, Tosca, and Carmen, for "financial reasons," he says. And substituting them with "hippie crap."

"It's a terrifying cultural revolution," says the Maestro. "Thinking about it makes me sleepless."

But, he adds, "they aren't touching my 'Boheme.' "

Indeed, Zeffirelli's honored production of that Puccini classic, a Met staple since 1981, continues to be a hot ticket among New York auds.
Give them time, Zeff ... give them time.

Also on the season for the Royal Opera House Muscat is Placido Domingo in concert with the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Kohn. And, Mrs. Thomas Jessell (aka: Renée Fleming), who will appear with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Joanna Carneiro.

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