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Monday, December 5, 2011

New Horizons in American Opera: I Cugini

A new opera based on hit MTV reality show Jersey Shore.
This vintage postcard shows the boardwalk in Keansburg, NJ.
In recent years, modern American opera has drawn from the news, from popular literature, and from the movies. Now, we present the first opera inspired by a cable reality show. The opera is I cugini (The Cousins) based on the wacky adventures of America's favorite reality stars. Any similarities between the plot and a certain show on MTV networks is purely coincidental and done in the interest of parody.

Written by composer Lucca Pastafagiole and librettist I. Nesistenti, I Cugini follows the romantic misadventures of four would-be celebrities in Seaside Heights, a resort beach town located in New Jersey. The opera will have its premiere on Feb. 30, 2012 at the Boardwalk Mall in Wildwood, NJ.

Cast of characters:
Paolo D, an unemployed goldsmith: Tenor.
Nicola, (known as "Snooki") an unemployed hairdresser. Soprano.
Michele, (called "Il Situazione") a former male stripper, now in barber college. Baritone.
Ginevra Urca, ("JWow") a wanton. Mezzo-soprano.
Giovanni Bongiovi, a karaoke singer. Tenor.

Act I: The boardwalk in Seaside Heights, NJ. In the background, Nicola's beach house.
Paolo D, an unemployed goldsmith, has fallen madly in love wih Nicola, a young woman who lives in a large house in the beach community of Seaside Heights.  He appears on the board-walk outside her beach house as dawn breaks over the Atlantic Ocean. Paolo sings her a serenade: "Di l'altezza del Mar."

Enter Michele, a student at the local barber college. He sings of his skill at hooking up his friends: "Io sono la Situazione." As he sings, Michele does a slow strip-tease down to his Dolce & Gabanna briefs. In the aria's cabaletta, he quickly puts his warm-up suit back on.

Paolo enlists Michele's help to get him into the house in order to score with the Nicola. He agrees to work in exchange for a gift card from Century 21. (Duet: "Credito illimitato.") Nicola enters and sings an aria from the pool deck of the house: "Mi chiamano Snooki." Paolo sings a reprise of his serenade. She tosses down a piece of paper with her Skype ID and they sing a long passionate duet. A patrolman arrests Paolo for loitering. He sings "Nessuno sa la fatica che ho visto."

Act II: A ballroom aboard a cruise ship anchored off the shore.
Nicola is out a party on an off-shore cruise ship: the Orrizonte degli Eventi. The chorus sings a rousing drinking song "Facciamo tutti ottenere martellato." Nicola finds herself in a booth with Michele. She asks him about Paolo. They exit to discuss him further--and make out.

Bongiovi, a karaoke singer  steps onto the dance floor and sings a power ballad: "Voluto, vive o morto." He follows with a cabaletta: "Vi darà l'amore di una cattiva reputazione."

Paolo enters, drunk. He meets Ginevra Urca, his former girlfriend. The lights dim and music slows in the club and they dance together. Just then, Nicola enters, recognizing Ginevra. The two of them have a clawing catfight as the men, embarrassed try to lead the crowd in a reprise of the drinking song as the girls fall into the water, still fighting.

Act III: The abandoned amusement park.
Michele waits for Nicola in front of an abandoned roller coaster. He sings an aria. She enters, and tells him she is leaving him for Paolo. He swears vengeance in an aria: "Io vado a calci nel culo."
She urges him to remember their past love "Sotto il lungomare." The scene shifts back to the previous summer, and the amusement park suddenly becomes operational. The lovers are paired off, Ginevra with Paolo, Michele with Nicola. An elaborate ballet is staged as the boards of the stage start to glow like a disco floor, and the whole cast does "The Hustle."

Act IV: Inside the beach house.
Morning. The orchestra evokes the sun rising over the sea. Paolo, Nicola, Ginevra and Michele wake up in the master bedroom, having all slept in the same bed. A comic quartet "Che cosa diavolo è successo?" starts, with each cast member trying to reconstruct the events of the night before. Suddenly the back walls part and a television crew is revealed, having filmed their exploits. The crew sings a chorus "Che cosa è la realtà." The walls close again.

The characters decide to all live in the house. Bongiovi enters, and they sign a contract for a new television reality show. In the opera's finale, Michele leads off a comic fugue: "Assicurati di vederci ogni settimana." Nicola sings of her love for both men and that she will be able to pay off the beach house. Paolo sings of his new job driving the beach tram. "Guarda il tram per favore." The curtain falls on a massive pillow fight.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.