Interview with Video Director, Tiziano Mancini

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Chiara Amarù HS
Tiziano Mancini is the video director for the Rossini Opera Festival. He was also the video director for almost all of the “Tutto Verdi” series, operas filmed exclusively in honor of Verdi’s Bicentennial. And in December 2013, Mancini made his debut as Stage Director for Verdi’s Otello at the Teatro Verdi in Salerno.

Nick del Vecchio: You mentioned in your email that you videotaped over 200 performances starting around 2001, how and when did you begin your filming career?

Tiziano Mancini: My involvement started with the coming of the new system for digital editing. I am the founder of Metis Film which today is known as Metisfilm Classica with two associates who are highly trained technicians. We have put together a modus operandi which has allowed and still allows us to obtain work of good quality at a low cost.
The basis for all this is that we do careful research and select the most suitable shooting and editing systems that get the best results for us. Above all, there are many possibilities for us because the market has a wide range.

NDV: What did you do to prepare yourself for this career?

TM: I studied the arts in High School and, after that, I spent a year in set design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Urbino. Then, I attended the Academy of the Performing Arts in Bologna.
Before finishing the University, I thought I’d try to join the working world by starting Metis Film which turned out very well for me. I began to move into the world of audiovisuals doing nearly everything: I was a cameraman, a fitter and a director.
My educational background is linked to the world of performance, and it suggested that I connect the theater and the video recording world and even musical theater, which was far from the practice of video recording.
My own “digital recipe” is now working and has taken off in a short time. That explains the 200 videos in less than ten years.

NDV:What is your process in preparing for a video of an opera? Do you work with the Stage Director?

TM: My method of working is totally original. First, I film with a wide camera lens and set the dress rehearsal performance. With that, I decide all the camera movements, and I store them vocally in a laptop with the correct advance times created by us. During the recording of the opera, the computer sends the commands by way of an intercom to the operators. I check that everything is correct and, if necessary, I confirm or modify the commands.
There are other small tricks I use, but they are just part of my whole working concept.
I rarely collaborate with stage directors because most of them are not involved with the world of video recording. However, I have good relationships with them, and they have full trust in my work. I discuss the final editing with them, especially those who have worked in cinema.

NDV:What organizations/opera companies do you work for?

TM: Our major contractor is UNITEL CLASSICA in Munich, Germany. They produce most of our operas and own a television network which includes 26 classical music channels in many countries and are involved with the largest music festivals in European theaters.
In the past, I have collaborated with RAI, Italian State Television and now with SKY TV, an international pay-for-view for which we have recorded two operas in 3D: Falstaff at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona and Aida at the Arena in Verona. Whereas in China, the last two operas I recorded were produced directly by the NCPA theater, ( National Centre for the Performing Arts, the opera house in Beijing).

NDV:Do you decide what operas to film or do the opera companies come to you with a proposal?

TM: I often propose operas from the Italian repertoire to UNITE; however, from abroad, they are the ones to decide what operas to film.

NDV:In your email you mentioned that you are in China to film Turandot with a Chinese cast and an ending to the opera by a Chinese composer, would you describe how the experience has been?

TM: I filmed Un Ballo in Maschera and Turandot. It was an exhilarating experience because the theater supplied very professional equipment and the shape of the theater itself allowed us to work with various pieces of equipment. For example, I was able to work with two Jimmy Jibs and one can see the result, especially with Turandot, there’s a lot of movement, above all, in the opera’s most static moments.
I was surprised by the young ages of the Chinese audiences. They are not familiar with the world of opera, but are very attracted to it.
At the moment, it is not possible to do shows with contemporary interpretations outside of the historical context in which they are set. They need time for this. But in China, marvelous opera theaters are cropping up in major cities, and in my opinion, this art will have a great future there.

NDV:Do you film by yourself or with a staff? If with a staff, who are they and what do they do?

TM: My team is made up of 14 people including the cameraman, the staff of “Making of” and the ones that do the audio recording. Professionally speaking, I avail myself with very capable people who have professional points of view and many of us are Italian. As the Germans say about us, “When everything is on fire, you give the best of yourselves.” We know how to work with great ingenuity in those moments of crisis, and I can tell you that by now emergencies are standard.

NDV: After watching your videos of Mosè in Egitto and Adelaide di Borgogna from the Rossini Opera Festival, I wondered what decisions or adjustments did you make in filming them, since Mosè was in the Adriatic Arena and Adelaide in the Teatro Rossini?

TM:The decisions I make always depend on the working space I have available and the type of opera. The Adriatic Arena is an indoor stadium which becomes a theater for the Rossini Opera Festival.
It is a very difficult space to work in because the stage directors have to make use of it while working with very complex operas such as Mosè in 2011, Zelmira in 2009, and this year’s Guillaume Tell.
I am always forced to invent something using various equipment such as Jimmy Jib and Steadycam,* along with hanging video cameras and other equipment that we invent ourselves. In the Rossini Theater, it is a lot easier; I adapt the same camera position because the traditional theaters offer less space for positioning the equipment, alternatives to the simple video cameras mounted on a tripod.

*Jimmy Jib is a robotic camera crane and Steadycam is used to produce smooth moving shots with a camera rig. ( Jimmy Jib was previously mentioned in #6 without a footnote.)

NDV: Do you teach courses about filming opera videos, and if so, where and to whom?

TM: I have been given a professorship of directing TV as is applies to the theater at the Opera Academy of Verona. But the course has yet to come about. I don’t have a lot of time to devote to teaching. I hope to have more time in the future.

NDV: My readers are very interested in your professional career, would you like to add anything else concerning the interview?

TM: At this time, after having experimented with 3D Technology, we are interested in 4K ( enhanced HD.) It is my objective to be able to make musical theater into a type of experimental cinema. I am not interested in experimenting with “Live” opera in places outside of the theater which has been done with Turandot, Rigoletto and La Cenerentola.
If one goes outside the theater, you need to have the courage to experiment and live taping is never an advantage because it limits the most interesting aspect of experimentation. I have taped “Assassino nelle cattedrale,” by Ildebrando Pizzetti, twice within a five year span. The first one was in Basilica di San Nicola a Bari and, again last year, in the interior of the Duomo di Milano. I tried to insert some scenes that were taped outside of the opera in order to show some important and suggestive moments of the story. I believe one could say the experiment was partly successful. Opera is not a sports competition in which we do not know the outcome. We all know what is going to happen at the end. It is better to make your ideas work rather than lose yourself behind useless operations in the marketplace of live taping that are, in and of themselves, expensive and don’t add anything to the future of the art form.
In December, I will make my debut as stage director for Otello at the Teatro Verdi in Salerno with a cast that includes Gregory Kunde, Dimitra Theodossiu and Renato Bruson.*
Also, this year I have taped two Otello productions, one at the Palau de les Arts di Valencia and the other at the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia which has already been shown on TV on October 10th, G.Verdi’s birthday. In both cases I had Kunde as Otello. Now I find myself as a stage director for the first time, and it seems it’s always Otello. One could say that Otello and Kunde are my “ obsessions” for 2013.

*The Otello performances took place on December 6, 8 and 10, 2013.

English Translation by Rosann Petrella Gonzalez and Nick del Vecchio

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Golijov’s Ainadamar: A Fountain of Tears

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December 13, 2013
From Seen and Heard International By: José Mª Irurzun; photo credit: Opera Oviedo

SpainSpain Golijov: Ainadamar, Orchestra Principado de Asturias, Chorus Opera Oviedo, Corrado Rovaris (conductor), Teatro Campoamor, Oviedo, 10.12.2013 (JMI)
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A year and a half ago I had the occasion to see this opera at Madrid’s Teatro Real, and I wrote that I found it a work better suited to an opera festival than a regular opera season. In fact, its world premiere took place at Tanglewood, and subsequent revisions were made during performances in Los Angeles (but not during the opera season) and at the Santa Fe Festival. The decision of Teatro Real to offer Ainadamar in the regular season was surprising, and this is even more so in the case of Oviedo, which presents few operas outside of the main repertoire. I am not against it, but I do wonder what Oviedo’s subscribers think of this, as I wondered about Madrid’s subscribers.
Ainadamar (“Fountain of Tears” in Arabic) refers to the place where the poet Federico García Lorca was assassinated during the Spanish Civil War. The opera presents Lorca’s death in a well-wrought parallel with that of Mariana Pineda, who is present in a good part of the opera. In the last scene, the protagonist is the great actress Margarita Xirgú, friend of Lorca’s and a frequent star in his plays, including Mariana Pineda. Both Pineda and Lorca are portrayed as martyrs of freedom in life and death. There’s no doubt these two figures are truly universal icons who give meaning and strength to the opera.
Osvaldo Golijov’s music is somewhat irregular, but this is not one of those works that traditional opera lovers reject. It’s not an exceptional work but one can enjoy it, although it lacks a real personal touch by the author. The version in Oviedo eliminates verses by Lorca that were added in Madrid and thus returns to the more traditional Santa Fe version.
The stage production is by Luis de Tavira. I found his work attractive in its simplicity, except in the last scene where one doesn’t know exactly what is going on as Lorca and Xirgú preside over a kind of Christ’s Last Supper. Video projections play an important role, and the choreography is excellent. The sets are rather simple, consisting of black mobile panels that allow much flexibility in the scene changes, but the costumes are no more than adequate. I should mention the excellent performance by the Antonio Gadés dance company.
Musical direction was in the hands of Corrado Rovaris, who led the opera’s Spanish premiere in Granada, and conducted it in 2009 in Philadelphia at the Curtis Institute (incidentally, this was also outside Philadelphia’s regular opera season). Clearly, Oviedo decided to put the opera in safe hands, and the result was impressive. Rovaris offered a remarkable reading, careful and truly delicate.
The casting left something to be desired, but one must acknowledge the difficulties in getting major voices for an opera like this.
María Hinojosa was insufficient as Margarita Xirgú, with a very small middle range that barely reached the audience. Neither was Marina Pardo, with a not very exciting voice, convincing in the character of Federico García Lorca. Elena Sancho Pereg showed an attractive and well handled voice in the part of Nuria, although she was short of volume. Possibly the best vocal performance came from cantaor Alfredo Tejada as Ruiz Alonso .
Teatro Campoamor was at about 70% of capacity. The audience was rather cold at the final bows.

Cast:
Margarita Xirgú: María Hinojosa
Federico García Lorca: Marina Pardo
Nuria: Elena Sancho-Pereg
Ruiz Alonso: Alfredo Tejada
Tripaldi: Francisco Crespo
Teacher: Pablo Gálvez
Torero: Marc Sala
Co-production of Opera Oviedo, Granada Internacional Festival, Santander Festival
Direction: Luis de Tavira
Sets and Lighting: Philippe Armand
Costumes: Tolita and Maria Figueroa
Videos: Julián de Tavira
Choreography: Stella Arauzo

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Rare Revival of Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine

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December 4, 2013
From Seen and Heard International By: José Mª Irurzun

ItalyItaly Meyerbeer: L’Africaine, Orchestra and Chorus Teatro La Fenice, Emmanuel Villaume (Conductor), La Fenice, Venice, 29&30.11.2013 (JMI)

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The case of Giacomo Meyerbeer is almost unique in the history of opera. The most popular opera composer in the first half of 19th century, he has been rejected by theaters over the past several decades. It is not that opera lovers have turned their backs on Meyerbeer (the few performances of his works are well received by the public, as here in Venice), but rather the fact that the criteria of decision makers in opera houses have little to do with audiences’ tastes.

As far as L’Africaine goes, suffice it to say that it had not been performed in Venice since the late 19th century. The opera has hardly been seen in recent years outside Germany, and never in top houses. This season marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Meyerbeer, and La Fenice decided to commemorate it by offering this posthumous opera. The performances were popular with the audiences and featured an interesting and attractive stage production, solid musical direction, and an excellent cast in the main roles.

The director of this new production was Italian filmmaker Leo Muscato, whose work here was more interesting than what he offered last month in I Masnadieri in Parma. The great simplicity of the stage for much of the performance was attractive: in four of the five acts it was occupied by an inclined platform, to which props were added for the different scenes. In Act III the stage became a ship with appropriate movement; the last act, where the platform represents the sea through excellent lighting, was very beautiful. Costumes were well suited to the time of the libretto, and particularly colorful in Act IV with Hindu outfits for chorus and extras.

Muscato’s narration of the complicated plot and the several love triangles was successful. He used video projections at the beginning of each act to reflect anti-colonialist sentiments, which is not at all removed from Meyerbeer’s intentions.

Emmanuel Villaume led a well-controlled performance with a good reading of the score. The Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice had a remarkable sound, and the Choir of La Fenice was also very good. The version offered here had cuts, including the ballet music, which is natural in an opera like this.

Veronica Simeoni as Selika was a pleasant surprise. She offered a lyrical interpretation of the character, far from the dramatic aspects one hears in historical recordings of the opera. She was right to follow this line since her voice is not very powerful: what she brought to the role was musicality and delicacy. In the second cast, Selika was Patrizia Biccirè whose singing was good but somewhat modest. Her her voice is short in colors and her biggest problem is the low notes, which are too weak for the part.

Gregory Kunde was a remarkable interpreter of Vasco de Gama. The career of this singer is truly unusual as success has come to him at an age when singers may be considering retirement. At almost 60, he has become a fashionable tenor in the most demanding repertoire. His performance here was excellent, and he faced with bravura the more difficult moments. The biggest applause of the evening came for him after O, Paradis. Antonello Palombi in the second cast has two very different voices: a wide baritone middle range, but above the passage things get thinner and tighter. He is not a very elegant singer.

Jessica Pratt was an excellent Inés. She’s a strong singer with a light-lyric soprano and attractive timbre. The young (26) Czech soprano Zuzana Markova in the second cast made a very good impression. She is a light soprano, with a darker voice than is usual in this type of singer. She is easy at the top and vocally agile.

Angelo Veccia was not well suited for the demands of Nélusko. He can sing a good Marcello or any of the lighter Verdi baritones, but Nélusko requires a wider voice. He pushed his voice and was at his best in the final scene with Selika. Luca Grassi was a better fit for the role. His voice has a certain width and quality, but he also has a tendency to seek more volume.

The numerous secondary characters were effective but no more than that.

La Fenice was almost sold out on both days. The audience was warm and receptive during the performance and also at the final bows. The biggest cheers were for Gregory Kunde, Veronica Simeoni and Luca Grassi.

Casts:
Selika: Veronica Simeoni/Patrizia Biccirè
Vasco de Gama: Gregory Kunde/Antonello Palombi
Inés: Jessica Pratt/Zuzana Markova
Nelusko: Angelo Veccia/Luca Grassi
Don Pedro: Luca Dall’Amico
Don Diego: Davide Ruberti
Don Alvar: Emanuele Giannino
Inquisitore: Mattia Denti
Brahma Priest: Rubén Amoretti
Anna: Anna Bordignon

New production:
Direction: Leo Muscato
Sets: Massimo Checchetto
Costumes: Carlos Tieppo
Lighting: Alessandro Verazzi

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