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Bootlegger's Blues

(Observations, Tristan Kraft, Cinema, Soundtracks) Permanent link
Blogs Boardwalk Empire LG 10110
Paz de la Huerta and Anthony Laciura in Martin Scorsese's
Boardwalk Empire
Abbot Genser/HBO

Many opera fans probably first took note of director Martin Scorsese's taste in opera with Raging Bull, which employed Cavalleria Rusticana's Intermezzo as the soundtrack to its opening credits. Likewise, his 1993 period piece, The Age of Innocence — based on the novel by Edith Wharton — opened on a tableau of Gounod's Faust playing at the New York Academy of Music. In 2006, Scorsese had Jack Nicholson — portraying Irish-American mob boss Frank Costello in The Departed — throw a handful of cocaine at a prostitute, while the sextet from Lucia, "Chi mi frena in tal momento?" played in the background. (The tune is heard later in the movie as Costello's ringtone.)

Scorsese yet again demonstrated his interest in opera with Monday night's premiere of Boardwalk Empire, HBO's new drama about the woes of Prohibition in Atlantic City. Scorsese and Sopranos writer Terence Winter have assembled a fairly huge cast for the twelve-episode show, including Metropolitan Opera character-tenor Anthony Laciura. One thing is already apparent: the breadth of talent on the show ranges widely. Laciura, all opera-industry bias aside, is one of the most capable actors, and Paz de la Huerta is one of the least.

In a sequence at the end of the episode, two characters are knocked-off while Cavalleria Rusticana's "O Lola, ch'ai di latti"   plays in the background. One actor stands at the gramophone when the hit comes, and moments later his blood decorates the famous picture of Caruso, mid-drum-strike, dressed as Pagliaccio. Indeed, la commedia è finita. spacer 


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Book Report

(Observations, F. Paul Driscoll, Books) Permanent link
Blogs Patti LuPone Memoir 91710  

For those of you who were riding the Number 1 uptown local this morning, I'm the fellow who was laughing out loud at the book I was reading. Patti LuPone: A Memoir — the brand-new autobiography by the star of Broadway's upcoming Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown — is one of the best theater memoirs I have read in years. LuPone pulls no punches and takes no prisoners; her stories about Andrew Lloyd Webber, for example, are sharp enough to cut glass. She tells plenty of stories on herself, not afraid to own up to her mistakes or confess to her own occasionally wild behavior. But this lady is an artist to her core, and her passion for acting and for the theater registers on every page. The last actor who wrote about the theater and about herself with such candor was the late Ruth Gordon — like LuPone, a complete American original.

LuPone became a star in 1979, when Evita opened on Broadway, and has stayed a star ever since. Within the past ten years I've met LuPone several times in connection with OPERA NEWS — she's been on the cover twice — and been completely charmed by her professionalism and her wit. But I date my time as a LuPone fan from the winter of 1973–74, when I saw her and her fellow members of The Acting Company in New York at the Billy Rose Theater on Broadway and on tour at the Spingold Theater at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. I admired her ripely bitchy Lucy Lockit in The Beggar's Opera, but I loved her as Irina in The Three Sisters. It's my favorite Chekhov play, and more than thirty years later, that Acting Company staging by Boris Tumarin is still at the top of my list. In the last act, Irina has a heartwrenching scene with Baron Tuzenbach, a man whom she does not love, but who is about to die in a duel. I've never forgotten the way LuPone looked at Norman Snow, her Tuzenbach: with a small, tight lift of her chin, LuPone's Irina swallowed her pity for the Baron but seemed to increase the distance between them by miles. You knew that both of them were doomed, and that neither of them deserved it. It was a great moment — and LuPone's book brought back memories of many more of them. spacer 


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