LOW COST, BUT EFFECTIVE
by GIUSEPPE PENNISI
It is no longer an experiment. It has being going on for nearly ten years. It has reported on by The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Independent, La Tempestad, Expension Entorno, Actual and various German and Far Eastern (mostly Japanese and Korean) newspapers and magazines. Early in 2009, it was studied in depth by Suguru Agata, Segretary General of the Japan Electronic Keyboard Society; as a result, it has been included among the research and experimental lyric opera theatres under review and monitoring upon by the Open Research Center Project of the Showa Music University. In 2010, two of its productions will be seen at the Shanghai International Expo and at the Korean Chamber Opera Festival.
It is of interest to our readers for two reasons: firstly, it shows how low cost or budget opera can use modern technology -- very important information for opera houses in comparatively small towns as well as for touring companies; secondly, it provides indications to tourists visiting Rome for alternative ways to have an opera evening when the Teatro dell'Opera is not 'in season' or is 'sold out'. Although the most relevant aspect shows how to use technology to reduce costs, opera goers in Rome should to avoid falling into many well advertised traps: performances in churches and Renaissance palaces by occasionally and often carelessly assembled groups of amateurs : often their quality is abysmal.
Let us sum up how the Piccolo Lirico started and gradually established itself. About ten years ago, during one of the mini-recessions that plagued Italy before the 2008 massive world downturn, three active and ingenious, but no longer adolescent, girls found themselves out of job; All of them loved opera. They were respectively a stage director-manager, a stage sets and costumes designer and a conductor. They had guts. Thus, they set for an adventure: low cost, but decent quality opera. Of courses, with their limited means and no state or regional financial support, they never aimed at producing anything comparable to La Scala, La Fenice, San Carlo, Massimo or the Teatro dell'Opera. The tickets are about half the price of those in major houses and further discounts are offered to groups.
Teatro Flaiano is a small stage theatre nearly hidden in the central heart of Rome (the untouched Renaissance area between the Pantheon, the Collegio Romano, and Torre Argentina archeological setting). The theatre is an elegant and cozy 150 seat candy or jewel box. The direction decided that their operas should be different to those available in normal houses. Thus, performances start at 8pm promptly and end at 10pm (when the audience can enjoy dinners in many a trattoria nearby). Operas are often abridged by removing scenes with many singers and large choruses; also at the Bregenz Festival, operas are cut to fit one single stage set and not more than a two hour performance. At Bregenz, voices and orchestra are electronically amplified. However, there should be no compromise in quality, viz voices, acting orchestra, staging and alike (including dancing in their Carmen). And, of course, no amplification.
Young singers are selected after a competitive process and receive training in acting: a now internationally known singer Amarilli Nizza started her career as Traviata at the Piccolo Lirico some ten years ago. The main innovations deal with stage sets and orchestra. The sets are computerized projections: in Tosca and Traviata-- in repertory until June 2011 -- the sets are, respectively, reproductions of Rome in the early nineteenth century (with a small movie on Tosca's running in a period sedan to Castel Sant'Angelo) and the history of Violetta to latest experimental effective visions. The orchestra is live electronics, but not, as usually done, an electone supported by normal instruments; there are four different electones, played by professional pianists under the baton of a professional conductor: they can reproduce the sounds of an orchestra of sixty instruments.
Copyright © 6 January 2010 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy - Music & Vision home Ready for 2010
“Piccola Lirica,” the Success of Teatro Flaiano
Thanks to Rossana Siclari, Bel Canto has embarked on innovation: famous operas have been reduced to ninety minutes shows on a small stage with a small scale orchestra, supported by art- technology. The public and critics alike, seem to appreciate it. Famous operas have been reduced to ninety minutes shows on a small stage with a small scale orchestra "Synth Lyric Orchestra". The public and critics alike, seem to appreciate it.
When Rossana Siclari decided to experiment with a project of mini-operas in a small theatre in the heart of Rome in 1999, her initiative was welcomed with 60% enthusiasm and 40% skepticism. How could great melodramas be reduced and performed? They are the most sumptuous and demanding genre, require many performers, excellent singers, a large musical ensemble and cannot be put on stage without the financial support of sponsors and backers. We also have to consider that in our country the tradition of opera is a very complex field, in which any change could be regarded as desecration, and where the enthusiasts seem to be relatively old and dwindling in number. Nevertheless, instead of being discouraged from carrying out her project, Rossana Siclari found in these reasons the necessary stimulus to continue, since opera risked being fossilized and excluded from new languages and a new public-becoming an obsolete genre. So the adventure started, the road was sometimes hard, but mostly positive. Starting from the concept of miniaturizing space, everything had be reduced in size and enhanced through the greatest care for detail, such as the choice of young and talented singers. Some of them, after having made their début at the Piccolo Lirico-Teatro Flaiano, have started singing in the most important theaters in the world, this is the case of Amarilli Nizza, the sisters Giorgia and Raffaella Milanesi and the baritone Costantino Finucci. Following an experimental approach in order to discover new talents, different interpretations and means of expression, they started a sort of work in progress which turned experimentation into a new genre, completely Made in Italy: “Piccola Lirica". ”
This term does not refer to the so-called operetta, but to a sort of jewel box containing the most significant masterpieces that represent Italian art in the world.
The biggest challenge was that of adapting the music to the new requirements. The revolutionary idea was begun using new midi technologies, fine-tuning and continuously improving sound sampling and effects.
The music is played by four pianists who have been trained in the new method by director Elisabetta del Buono after having developed and prepared the keyboards and followed the acoustic part in order to achieve the best results. The music adaptation and the sound sampling have improved each season, and the audience has the feeling of listening to music played by a 60-element orchestra. In the same way, the set design had to be adapted as well to a small stage. Spaces and perspective have been achieved through virtual places and atmospheres. The graphic part is designed by Gianna Volpi and Rossana Siclari takes care of the direction to create a vision which mixes art with cinema, theatre and effects with endless solutions, thanks to sophisticated and state-of-the-art technologies. The final result is not just special effects, since the performance succeeds in expressing the poetry of the original opera.
Over the last three years Teatro Flaiano was renamed Piccolo Lirico and focused exclusively on this project, putting on stage more than 400 representations of Tosca and 150 of Madame Butterfly, allowing the début of dozens of singers in the leading roles and maintaining a playbill with a nine-month program in each season.