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Minnesota Opera is excited to announce its next New Works Initiative production, The Dream of Valentino. Composed by Dominick Argento, with libretto by Charles Nolte, as a joint commission by Washington and Dallas operas, the work received its world premiere in 1994 at The Kennedy Center, where it was described by the Chicago Tribune as “visually and theatrically … a thumping success.” Eric Simonson (The Grapes of Wrath, Silent Night) directs and Maestro Christoph Campestrini (Werther) conducts this revised premiere as a part of the company’s 2013–2014 season.
“I have known Dominick since my first season when Minnesota Opera premiered Casanova’s Homecoming in 1985 and have always admired the freshness and vibrancy of his works,” said Artistic Director Dale Johnson. “The Dream of Valentino is the only major Argento opera that we have not staged and I thought it imperative, as we began the New Works Initiative, that we invest in producing his entire canon. After I approached Dominick to discuss this revival, he spent the summer making major changes to literally give Valentino a new beginning. By reworking the dramaturgy and focusing more on Valentino the artist, Dominick feels that the work will better embody how Hollywood uses its artists and tosses them away when they are no longer convenient.”
The Dream of Valentino is part of Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative, a landmark program designed to invigorate the operatic repertoire with an infusion of contemporary works. Produced as part of the Initiative: an American premiere, The Adventures of Pinocchio (Dove); two revivals, Casanova’s Homecoming (Argento) and Wuthering Heights (Herrmann); and a world premiere, the Pulitzer Prize Award-winning Silent Night (Puts). Doubt, composed by Douglas J. Cuomo with libretto by John Patrick Shanley, makes its world premiere in January 2013. Following The Dream of Valentino, a yet-to-be-announced world premiere will complete the seventh and final year of the Initiative in the 2014–2015 season. Since fundraising began in March 2008, Minnesota Opera has raised more than $6.68 million to support the New Works Initiative.
About The Dream of Valentino
Rudolph Valentino, an Italian immigrant, becomes a popular Broadway dancer after his arrival in 1913 and aspires to become a great stage actor. A Hollywood film mogul discovers him and makes a note to watch him in the future even though he is on contract with a rival studio. Valentino signs a personal contract with the famous actress Alla Nazimova. Afterwards, he proposes to the actress Jean Acker what turns out to be a disastrous marriage. He becomes an overnight sensation with the release of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the Mogul buys out Valentino’s Metro contract. In the course of filming The Sheik, the beleaguered Mogul finds out about both Valentino’s personal contract with Nazimova and his potentially scandalous marriage with Acker. As a result, Valentino is forced against his will into his next film, which fails miserably at the box office. He loses control of his career, and drops out of Hollywood, taking up the life of an itinerant actor and dancer. Valentino dies at the age of 31 in New York as headlines proclaim his passing and propel him into legend.
About the composer
Dominick Argento, considered to be America’s pre-emininent composer of lyric opera, was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1927. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Peabody Conservatory and his Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music. Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships allowed him to study in Italy and following his Fulbright, Argento became music director of Hilltop Opera in Baltimore, and taught theory and composition at the Eastman School. In 1958, he joined the faculty of the Department of Music at the University of Minnesota, where he taught until 1997. He now holds the rank of Professor Emeritus.
Following his arrival in Minnesota, Argento helped to found Minnesota Opera (then Center Opera Company) in 1963 and premiered his opera, The Masque of Angels, at the company’s opening. Since the early 1970’s Argento’s operas have been heard with increasing frequency abroad. Among these are Minnesota Opera commissions, The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe (1976) and Casanova’s Homecoming (1984), which Robert Jacobson of Opera News called “a masterpiece.”
Dominick Argento received the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1975 for his song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1979 and in 1997 he was honored with the title of Composer Laureate to the Minnesota Orchestra, a lifetime appointment.
b Bergamo, November 29, 1797;
d Bergamo, April 8, 1848
With nearly 70 operas to his credit, Gaetano Donizetti was the leading Italian composer in the decade between Vincenzo Bellini’s death and the ascent of Giuseppe Verdi. Donizetti was born in the northern Italian city of Bergamo to an impoverished family. After showing some musical talent, he was enrolled in the town’s Lezioni Caritatevoli where he had the good fortune to study with Giovanni Simone Mayr, maestro di cappella at Santa Maria Maggiore. Originally from Bavaria, Mayr was a successful composer in Italy during the era preceding Gioachino Rossini’s rise to fame, with dozens of operas to his credit. Though offered many prestigious appointments throughout Europe, Mayr remained loyal to his adopted community and greatly enhanced the local musical institutions. Donizetti arrived at a time when Mayr was writing his greatest operas, and his impression on the younger composer was pronounced. Throughout his life, Donizetti regarded him as a second father, though he would outlive his master by only three years.
When it came time, Donizetti furthered his education at the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna (shadowing Rossini, who had once studied there). He had already penned several short operas before receiving his first commission in 1818 from the Teatro San Luca in Venice – this was Enrico di Borgogna to a libretto by Bartolomeo Merelli. (In later years, as impresario of La Scala, Merelli was instrumental in the beginnings of Verdi’s career.) Further works were produced in Venice, but Donizetti returned to Bergamo for a few years of relative inactivity. A letter of introduction from Mayr to poet Jacopo Ferretti led Donizetti to Rome, where in 1822 he would have his first unequivocal success, Zoraide di Grenata. His career was just getting started.
Later that year Donizetti settled in Naples and used it as a base for the next 16 years. He arrived just as Rossini was finishing his seven-year contract with the royal theaters. Like Rossini he had the ability to work at the increasingly rapid pace demanded by the Italian theater industry and was able to produce three to four operas a year for most of his life.
Many remain timeless gems. L’elisir d’amore (1832), La fille du régiment (1840) and Don Pasquale (1843) demonstrate his expert handling of lighter subjects. Lucrezia Borgia (1833),Gemma di Vergy (1834), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), Maria de Rudenz (1838) and Maria Padilla (1841) display the composer’s mastery of the Italian melodrama fueled by impassioned and unrestrained literature of the Romantic period. His influence on Verdi cannot be underestimated.
Donizetti’s success in dealing with both comic and tragic settings was due in part to his own manic depressive personality. Well acquainted with personal misfortune, Donizetti lost in the span of eight years his mother, father, two infant sons, an infant daughter and Virginia Vasselli, his wife of seven years. He never truly recuperated after her death, locking the door to her room and refusing to utter her name again. His melancholia may have been induced by early symptoms of syphilis, which he contracted as a young man. It may have also been brought on by the responsibility he felt for harboring the disease that likely cost him his wife and children.
Donizetti made his Paris debut in 1835 with Marino Faliero at the Théâtre Italien and later premiered Les martyrs (1840) at the Paris Opéra. A French translation of Lucia made his name a household word, and in 1840 the composer captivated audiences with La favorite, which became hugely popular throughout Europe and North America. One of his very last works for the stage, Dom Sébastien (1843), was cast in the mold of French grand opéra and was extremely well-received.
The composer had hoped to assume Niccolò Zingarelli’s post as director of the Naples Conservatory, but when the 85-year-old composer died in 1837, Donizetti’s considerable musical contribution to the city was overlooked. Preference was given to a lesser composer, Saverio Mercadante, chiefly because he was a native Neapolitan. After his brief stint in Paris, Donizetti turned toward the Austrian state, where he became music director of the imperial theaters. Two of his final works had their premiere at Vienna’s principal venue, the Kärntnertortheater: Linda di Chamounix (1842) and Maria di Rohan (1843). After the success of Linda, he was appointed Composer to the Austrian Court, a position Mozart had held a half century before.
By 1845, symptoms of his illness had become incapacitating, and his erratic behavior could no longer be excused by overwork. With his family’s intervention Donizetti was placed in a French sanitarium at Ivry for 17 months, then transferred to a Paris apartment. There he was regularly visited by musicians and colleagues, including Verdi, but by this point he was paralyzed, disoriented and rarely spoke. In September 1847, friends arranged his return to Bergamo, where he passed his final days at the home of a wealthy patroness.
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This will be a busy month for Tempo!
If you don’t know Tempo well, October would be a great month to get to know us. The two events happening this month are so different, I feel they really show off the multiple facets of Tempo.
You’ll see what I mean. Here is what Tempo has going on this month:
This event has always been a favorite of mine. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that now and then I think it’s nice to be able to go out and enjoy opera without the suit and tie. With events like Opera on Tap, you can see that Tempo gets that too. The event takes place at Honey, which, if you haven’t been there before, is kind of a sexy bar. The bar is below street level and I always feel like I’m walking into some place secretive when I’m there. Walk down the stairs and relax as opera singers sing opera favorites. Feel free to grace us all with your finest jeans and t-shirt. Enjoy your beer/cocktail, enjoy your friends, enjoy the music!
Thursday, October 18, 6pm – 9pm
205 East Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414
This is another event that I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve always loved learning about the Tudors and I was excited to see that Minnesota Opera is doing Anna Bolena. I’ll admit that deep down, I’ve always had a soft spot for juicy drama and scandal, so naturally, I’ve always been drawn to the story of Anne Boleyn. This event sounds fascinating to me. Here, you’re invited to join Tempo at Kieran’s Irish Pub, where there will be a panel discussion. Once there, Tempo will show you how this juicy true story made it from the pages of history to novels, to movies, and now, to the stage of the Minnesota Opera. This is a rare opportunity to take a peak inside the lives of royalty, and a rare opportunity to see how the creative minds of the Minnesota Opera work! John Birge from Classical MPR will be moderating a panel discussion that includes Professor John Watkins from the University of Minnesota, Director Kevin Newbury, and opera stars Keri Alkema (Anne) and David Portillo (Lord Percy).
Wednesday, October 24, 6pm – 9pm
Kieran’s Irish Pub (Titanic Room)
601 First Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Hope to see you guys there!
Visit Minnesota Opera’s blog every week for Tempo Tuesday