It seemed to be Plácido Domingo’s idée fixe, his improbable and just slightly amusing conviction that Oscar-winning filmmaker Woody Allen should be paired with the Los Angeles Opera. Following his appointment as General Director of LA Opera, Domingo tried tempting Allen with one suggestion after another. Over the course of four years, each new idea was found wanting and discarded, until at last an agreement was reached. The 2008 season would begin with a new production of three Puccini one-acts known collectively as Il Trittico, with Woody Allen producing Gianni Schicchi, the third and final opera of the set.
The first two operas, Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica, were produced by another filmmaker, William Friedkin, and later reviewed as “a pair of smart, beautifully crafted, beautifully designed and beautifully performed productions that gave grit, grandeur and even a hint of class to old-fashioned melodrama.”
Meanwhile, Allen and his longtime collaborator, Santo Loquasto, used sets and costumes to produce what The New York Times described as “the look and style of some old black-and-white film. Not one of those black-and-white Woody Allen films, [but something like] “Big Deal on Madonna Street”. Throughout the process Allen, who described himself to The NY Times as “not the greatest choice in the world” to direct opera, became even more self-deprecating than usual. Asked how things were going with the new production, he played down his suitability for the job. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he told The Los Angeles Times, “but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.” (more…)