THE MERRY WIDOW AT SAN CARLO

The most fa­mous op­eretta in the history of mu­sic sees ac­tor and singer Peppe Barra star­ring in the role of Nje­gus, the comic sec­re­tary of the Pon­tevedrian Em­bassy. Where ® in­ter­viewed him for you

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - CONTENTS - Will this be your first per­for­mance at the opera house since then? How have au­di­ences changed from the time that you first started work­ing? What about the San Carlo The­atre? Has it changed over the years?

Peppe Barra star­ring in the role of Nje­gus. Where in­ter­viewed him for you

From 22 Jan­uary to 3 Fe­bru­ary, the San Carlo Opera House will host ‘ The Merry Widow’, the most fa­mous op­eretta in the history of mu­sic. From the time of its first per­for­mance in 1905, the op­eretta in three acts based on a li­bretto by Vik­tor Léon and Leo Stein with mu­sic by Fraz Le­hàr, en­joyed non- stop ac­claim thanks to a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of com­edy, mu­sic and dance and the provoca­tive, sen­sual theme of its plot. An emo­tional ex­trav­a­ganza whose char­ac­ters are in­volved in a fre­netic, amus­ing ex­change of cou­ples, prom­ises, sus­pi­cions and rev­e­la­tions. The version cur­rently play­ing at the San Carlo Opera House is con­ducted by Al­fred Eschwè and Mau­r­izio

Agos­tini un­der the di­rec­tor­ship of Fed­erico Tiezzi. To mark the oc­ca­sion, Where in­ter­viewed Peppe Barra, who stars in the role of Nje­gus, the bungling sec­re­tary of the Pon­tevedrian Em­bassy. Born into a fam­ily of Neapoli­tan artists, he be­gan act­ing when

he was just a child. Through­out his ca­reer, when per­form­ing, he has al­ways shown a pref­er­ence for song and mu­sic. He is renowned for his in­ter­pre­ta­tions of two mas­ter­pieces by Roberto De Si­mone, ‘ La gatta Cener­en­tola’ and the ‘ Can­tata dei pas­tori’.

What type of opera is The Merry Widow and what type of char­ac­ter is Nje­gus?

The Merry Widow is a very im­por­tant, el­e­gant and de­light­ful op­eretta. To my mind, it por­trays all the se­vere el­e­gance of Ger­many dur­ing the Belle Èpoque. Its plot is ex­tremely com­pli­cated, con­sist­ing, above all, of in­trigue and mis­un­der­stand­ings. I play Nje­gus, the char­ac­ter who more or less sums up the whole story. Though tak­ing ac­tion, solv­ing or, at least, try­ing to solve a se­ries of is­sues, he al­ways ends up in comic, grotesque sit­u­a­tions. Which Ital­ian city boasts the old­est tra­di­tion of op­erettas? In the past, I have per­formed in many op­erettas, above all in Palermo, at Teatro della Ver­dura. In Naples, dur­ing the Fifties, the tra­di­tion of op­erettas was very strong, the Neapoli­tans staged lots of them. Nowa­days, they are only staged at fa­mous the­atres like the San Carlo in Naples, the Petruzzelli in Bari or La Fenice in Venice.

How much ‘ Neapoli­taness’ will you bring to your Nje­gus?

I hope to in­fuse my char­ac­ter with lots of Neapoli­tan traits. The di­rec­tor and I dis­cussed the mat­ter at length: I be­lieve that he is go­ing to have me re­cite the part with a Neapoli­tan ac­cent. Nje­gus is a very adapt­able char­ac­ter and The Merry Widow is un­doubt­edly one of the most beau­ti­ful op­erettas of all times. Apro­pos of the Neapoli­tan ac­cent what do you think of our lan­guage? Un­for­tu­nately the Neapoli­tan lan­guage has changed for the worse. Young peo­ple no longer talk the mu­si­cal, har­mo­nious lan­guage of times gone by: they only emit ugly, gut­tural sounds. Only a few Neapoli­tan ac­tors have man­aged to re­tain the har­mo­nious beauty of our lan­guage when they talk. The in­tro­duc­tion of a cer­tain type of com­edy has ru­ined ev­ery­thing.

When did you make your first ap­pear­ance at the San Carlo Opera House?

I was about six. My dic­tion and act­ing teacher, Lea Mag­giulli Bar­torelli, known in the world of show­biz as Zi­etta Liù, used to put on im­por­tant per­for­mances for chil­dren at well-

known the­atres. I took part in a show en­ti­tled ‘ Tredi­cino’ at the San Carlo The­atre. It was a beau­ti­ful show with in­cred­i­ble stage sets, based on a fairy­tale re­sem­bling that of Tom Thumb. I played a lead­ing role as one of the seven lit­tle broth­ers. I re­turned last year to re­ceive a ca­reer award, it turned out to be a very un­usual oc­ca­sion. I turned up in all of my fin­ery, dressed to the hilt, but I hadn’t seen the props that were be­ing used on stage. When I walked onto the stage, I slipped and ended up fall­ing onto the apron. it all caused a lot of amuse­ment. Out of all the char­ac­ters that you have played, which did you feel the most em­pa­thy for? The step­mother in Cin­derella. I stud­ied really hard to por­tray her char­ac­ter and I really en­joyed my­self. This was forty years ago and it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence. First, we re­hearsed for months – it was staged at a prom­i­nent the­atre – we stud­ied, and, when the open­ing night came around we were ex­tremely well pre­pared be­cause we had stud­ied the mu­sic and an­a­lysed the char­ac­ters in depth. Things no longer work this way. Un­for­tu­nately, the tastes of au­di­ences have changed for the worse. Most peo­ple no longer ap­pre­ci­ate what I call ‘ el­e­gant’ the­atre. Sadly, nowa­days, it’s all about vul­gar­ity rather than cul­ture. San Carlo is a tem­ple of opera, it is one of the most im­por­tant the­atres in Europe: it con­tin­ues to re­main a bas­tion of Neapoli­tan cul­ture. More­over, this year, it’s offering a fab­u­lous play­bill. How­ever, it’s no longer the same as it was forty years ago: nowa­days, peo­ple at­tend­ing its open­ing nights tend to dress much less for­mally than they did in the past. It didn’t use to be this way: it would have been con­sid­ered a sort of vi­o­la­tion of the rules of eti­quette.

Leo Stein

Vik­tor Léon

Peppe Barra

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