I'm looking back at 20th and 21st century operas I have produced, directed, or performed in in the last few years and today's opera that I am going to talk about is The Telephone by #Menotti composed in 1947!
My first performance of The Telephone was at @UNT College of Music. I then performed it for a small gathering for Marble City Opera, and Carson-Newman University Music Department. I have also produced this gem at Marble City Opera with the fabulous soprano Julia Metry, who was wonderful in the role!
At the end of my masters degree at North Texas I had to go through what they called oral exams. I had to sit in a room with three professors of my choosing, and they could ask me any questions about what I may or may not have learned during my degree program. A little daunting to say the least, but one question I will never forget was asked by my lovely opera director, Paula Homer! Side note: I loved working with her and I had performed The Telephone on my master's recital by my own choosing.
She asked, " Why The Telephone? Do you think an opera like this has any real value in the arts?"
"Well," I answered, "Yes, of course it has value. Not everything in opera or art has to, or needs to be high art! Sometimes we need art for entertainment, and I think that The Telephone can be that."
To this day, I have a special place in my heart for this 30-minute opera comedy, and I'm sure I will revisit it in the future. In fact, I know I will.
Another fun anecdote: When I was performing and directing myself in the performance of The Telephone for my master's recital, I found a favorite youtube video of a performance that I shamelessly stole hilarious bits from. Years later I discovered that the production I loved so much was directed by my husband, James Marvel. He was making me laugh before I knew his name!
There are two roles in the Telephone, even though it's mostly about the soprano, as it should be! Ben is the other character who definitely feels left out and like it's ALL about Lucy. I have had a different Ben in each production. All wonderful in their own ways, but Peter Johnson stands out to me as a wonderful Ben, because of his fantastic physical comedic timing. He played the role opposite Julia Metry in Marble City Opera's production in 2017. The opera can be updated, but I always love placing it in the 1950's, because there are endless visual jokes that you can make with a long telephone cord.
Here are a few photos of the production over the years.
People in Photos from left to right:
Peter Johnson as Ben, Julia Metry as Lucy - Marble City Opera 2017
Kathryn Frady as Lucy, Joe Rinaldi as Ben - University of North Texas 2008
Next up in the 20th opera series: Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors