Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happily Ever Opera

Have you ever wondered what an opera with a happy ending would look like? I look at the synopses of all the great works – Madama Butterfly, Tosca, La bohème – and more often than not, the main character is denied that "happily ever after."

Take The Tales of Hoffmann, for example. The whole opera is Hoffmann relating the tragic stories of his lost loves. Why didn't Offenbach give the guy a break and let him find a nice girl and settle down in the suburbs? Maybe it's because he thought great artists can't find lasting love. Maybe he knew that opera fans prefer sad endings to happy ones.

So in a fit of pity and creativity, I took a few liberties with Offenbach's work, played fairy godmother and rewrote the endings…all three of them. (Special thanks to Box Office guru Katie for coming up with the idea in between phone calls from ticket buyers!)

Hoffmann, inspired by his love for the robotic doll, finds a better spring-and-coil set to keep Olympia going through the golden years (or at least the rusty years). Hoffmann goes into business with Olympia's inventor, Spalanzani, and the couple settle down in a quiet neighborhood with a good school system. Through the miracle of robotics, the lovers soon find themselves proud parents of robotic triplet girls. Hoffmann is the doting father, helping them with their homework and visiting their school on Career Day. (He warns their classmates away from the dangers of alcohol.)

After a visit from a real doctor, Antonia and Hoffmann move to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a world-famous singer. With Hoffmann as her diligent manager, Antonia soon gets booked at the Élysée Montmartre and her career takes off. The pair goes on a whirlwind world tour where they become enchanted by Manhattan and eventually move to a high-rise penthouse on the Upper West Side. As Antonia's voice begins to fade, she and Hoffmann open a school for voice in Greenwich Village. In the evenings, they enjoy spending time with friends at a local karaoke bar and occasionally performing duets. Antonia recently scored a small part in a Woody Allen movie; look for a character wearing a bright green, feathered hat.

Think Pretty Woman in Italy. Hoffmann sings an impassioned aria that sways Giulietta to give up all of her men and go for the happily ever after. They move to a wealthy and exclusive neighborhood in Rome where Giulietta becomes a diamond dealer and makes enough money to support Hoffmann's dream of settling down to write an opera: the story of a composer who works night and day to write a tragically beautiful opera but dies before it's finished.

Hoffmann decides, "What the hey?" and attends her performance in Don Giovanni. He is so incredibly moved that he decides to give up drinking and make a fresh start. The pair move into a lovely apartment in Venice overlooking the canal and, despite the odd screaming match fueled by the artistic temperament, find a fulfilling life together.

So there are Hoffmann's happily-ever-afters…but none of them would make a very interesting opera. So I suppose it's a good thing Hoffmann never found true happiness. Otherwise, the audience would be snoozing in the aisles.

See you next week!

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