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Tantrum of the opera: New show mocks producers of sub-par musical theater - Brooklyn Paper

Tantrum of the opera: New show mocks producers of sub-par musical theater

Cast away!: The cast of “La Farranucci” prepares for opening night on March 15.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Call it a meta-soprano!

An offbeat and often risque operetta will belt out its satiric tunes at Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Playhouse on March 15 and 16. Audiences at “La Farranucci,” will discover a saucy show that mocks the stodgy world of divas and double arias, according to its director.

“It’s as if Mel Brooks wrote an opera in the ’70s,” said Shelly Watson. “There’s a lot of touchy subjects and definitely a lot of things that people would call un-PC.”

The musical comedy, written by composer David Chesky, is an opera about an opera, and it turns a satirical eye on the practical concerns that underpin — and often undermine — the artistic endeavors of the medium’s cash-strapped creators.

Chesky’s “La Farranucci” opens on a troubled production of a fictional opera with the same name, as members of a Texan theater company struggle to meet the demands of their new producer, a former stripper who married into wealth, and is now afflicting her high-brow beneficiaries with her low-brow sensibilities.

“There’s a reason they’re called the nouveau riche,” said Watson. “Money can’t buy taste.”

Soon, the opera has been renamed “Hickery Dickery C—,” and its hippie composer, Chuck, has been locked away for violating the Lone Star State’s stiff indecency laws, following an ill-fated effort to fund his creative endeavors through the liberating art of pornography. Chuck’s road to redemption leads to the production really going off the rails, and — between starting a successful gun business and founding a new religion — the starry-eyed composer begins to transform into the very thing he sought to escape.

“Slowly, throughout the opera, his ethics go to the wayside and he starts to get a taste for what money is like,” Watson said.

The fat lady may strike a sobering note at the end of “La Farranucci,” but Watson makes no excuses for the state of contemporary opera. She has seen enough productions draw the final curtain to see that money can o d sften override artistic integrity.

“Is it tragic, or is it truthful?” the director asked. “It’s sad that all these opera houses are closing, but the most important thing is to understand why they’re closing.”

“La Farranucci” at Brooklyn Playhouse (126 St. Felix St. between Lafayette Avenue and Hanson Place in Fort Greene, lafarranucci.brownpapertickets.com). March 15–16 at 8 pm. $40.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Side-splitting: An actress performs a split during rehearsal for the opera-within-an-opera “La Farranucci,” which opens on March 15.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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