Saturday, 15 December 2018 | News today: 1

Giancarlo del Monaco: In opera if you don’t have money, you can be more interesting than when you have too much money

A good director, I think, what I think I’m trying to do, is to make laugh and make cry the public. Generally, you have directors better for dramatic pieces and directors better for funny pieces. I did all my life both. And in Turandot I have the occasion to mix the two situations, Del Monaco says

Director Giancarlo del Monaco is staging Turandot at the Macedonian Opera and Ballet. Del Monaco debuted on the opera stage in 1965, when he staged “Samson and Delilah” in Syracuse. His opera productions have been staged worldwide, in Berlin, Monaco, Vienna, Zurich, Barcelona, ​​Madrid … He also stages his opera productions at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, where he debuted in 1991. He has won a series of significant opera awards for his directorial views of the most famous musical theatre stage works.

So far, he has staged Puccini’s “Turandot” at several opera houses worldwide.

Tell us something about your experience working on Turandot at the Macedonian Opera and Ballet.

DEL MONACO: First, I am a very good friend of Igor Durlovski, your intendant and this is his first premiere, so we are all doing the best to make very good premiere and you know, I’ve been a lot in ex-Yugolslavia, I’ve been in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and I was also in Skopje when I was 27 years old, or 26. So I traveled when I was young, always having a trip in Yugoslavia because my father was a very famous tenor and he was good friend of Tito, President Tito. So, my father made concerts for Tito in Brioni, in Belgrade, Zagreb, so I went to ex-Yugoslavia, a beautiful land, from Slovenia until Macedonia, so I knew a lot about this land and it’s a pity that everything fell apart because it was a beautiful land altogether. Anyway, history is history. Also, when I was young I was with my mother and father on the Blue Train, you remember the Blue Train? So I have good remembering of Macedonia and also the Yugoslavian regions. Now, I’m back in Macedonia because Durlovski offered me to open his first production, during his time as intendant, as director and we try to put a good cast together and make a very good work. The problem of this theater is that it’s not a rich theater, it’s, let’s say, a poor theater, but even when you don’t have money you can do something good, very professional and interesting.  I suppose sometimes that if you don’t have money, you can be more interesting as when you have too much money. When you don’t have too much money you have to use a lot your brain and your direction capacities, so that’s what we are trying to do here. So far, we are good, Carlos is very good and maestro Martin Enge is my partner, conductor, he is an old friend of mine, so I know him very well, he is very good conductor. It’s very important to put together good cast to make a good premiere.

What aspects of Turandot appeal to you? The music, story, singing, acting?

DEL MONACO: Everything together, Turandot is a masterpiece of the Italian music literature and this is the last opera of Puccini. As you know, the finale is not from Puccini because with a death of few, Puccini dies too. So, the finale is from Alfano but this is based on an Italian fairy tale of Gozzi. Gozzi was a famous writer in Italy and he let a lot of feelings between commedia dell’arte and drama. So this is what is Turandot, it’s a very dramatic piece but at the meantime also a very funny piece, because Ping, Pong and Pang are funny figures So, this is always like life, tragic comic, you can laugh and cry. So, in this in meaning, in this idea, we also have to understand that a touch of Greek tragedy is there.


What would you say is your connecting point to Turandot? Which character is the one that guides you?

DEL MONACO: Turandot has interesting characters. Probably the most interesting characters are the first three characters, Ping, Pong, Pang. The first is Turandot. She is a completely frigid, ice personality and she needs vengeance to the men because her grand grand grandmother has been raped by a foreign person. So she wants to vengeance her grand grand grandmother to all the princes who want to marry her. And she, basically, invented the idea of three enigma. And the three enigma are very interesting, because they are based on the personality of Turandot. The prince, the unknown prince Calaf, the tenor, is basically, a man who just lost an empire with his father, and he found himself in Beijing and he sees this woman and he falls in love. And, he absolutely, wants to have her. So, the relation between Turandot and Calaf is an interesting relation because she doesn’t want a man and he wants her and her empire. She is a Chinese daughter of the emperor of China. So, he lost an empire and he also wants to win the next empire, which is China, bigger than the empire he had just lost. The father is a blind father, generally, when somebody loses a war, they blind the people with very hot metal, you have a story here, with tsar Samuil’s army. So, to blind people, especially, powerful people, you definitely don’t kill them, but they can’t do anything because they are blind. This is the destiny of the grandfather and the grandfather is the most discrete figure. Liu is his loyal slave and she fell in love with a tenor because he smiled at her one time. And for that reasons, she said, she would do everything to help him and his father and fell in love. And now, what’s happening, a love between a slave girl and a powerful woman. Calaf is a powerful man but nobody knows his name. And when he won the three enigma, Turandot is very mad and he says: Don’t be mad, I give you another chance to kill me, tell me my name until the sun will be up in the sky. She sees a chance and now, they torture the father and Liu. Liu, not to speak, because she knows the name, kills herself for love. It’s very interesting situation. Liu, is basically, the big love protagonist of this piece.

How does your direction contribute to the story of Turandot?

DEL MONACO: You have many possibilities to tell a story. You can tell a story in a realistic way, you can tell a story in a surrealistic way, you can tell a story as a fairy tale, you can tell a story as dramatic, or you can put the accent on the comic-dramatic situation of the piece. We choose the way of the theatralic feeling of a Greek tragedy with Chinese background. This is what we try. So, we have Chinese effects, effects of Japanese theater and also effects of Chinese theater. This is a mix between oxidant and orient and in the Ping, Pong, Pang we have there Mandarins but dressed and moving like three figures of the commedia dell’arte. Big contrast, funny contrast. So, this is the way we are working that out.

How do you make the singers in this production understand a character? And if you see a character differently than your singer does, how do you find a way to deal with it, without changing the relationships between the characters in your version of the story?

DEL MONACO: Singers are not marionettes, so, of course, each conception has to work together with the acting capacities of the singers. And this is what we are doing. I wouldn’t change the conception if I change a singer, but I would change, probably, the way of acting on stage but not the conception because the conception is something you realize months before. So, you can’t change it if you change a tenor, or change a baritone. A good director, I think, should be elastic and pay attention that not each singer is equal to the other one.


Is there any particular aspect of your art that we will be able to see in the Macedonian production of Turandot?

DEL MONACO: You have funny operas, you have only dramatic operas, you have funny-dramatic pieces so in Puccini you will find many times this, you will find it in Il trittico, Suor Angelica, Il tabarro Gianni Schicchi lyric-dramatic and funny situations, also in Turandot because there you have masks of tragic, of Greek tragedy, and masks of commedia dell’arte, the funny. A good director, I think, what I think I’m trying to do, is to make laugh and make cry the public. Generally, you have directors better for dramatic pieces and directors better for funny pieces. I did all my life both. And in Turandot I have the occasion to mix the two situations.

Today, many are of the opinion that a number of directors (especially German and French) are more innovative and are not afraid to experiment. Such experiments can open new paths in opera performances. Do you feel the need to bring something new to the opera or do you think that opera does not need directors to experiment?

DEL MONACO: Experiment is very important but where you want to go with an experiment, you want to let the public behind you that they don’t understand what are you going, for that reason that is not the right space, the right space is an experimental little theater, a big opera house can be experimental, of course, has to be experimental, has to propose something new, and I did that all my life. I’m 72 years old. I did in my life over hundred operas in metropolitan Stockholm, South Africa, Sydney, Covent Garden, Berlin, Minchen, Hamburg, Scala, Napoli, Roma, Torino, Genova, Palermo, so I was everywhere, I had many occasions to say something new. But what I think is new is what I think the public understands is new. But if you mix something new and you cut off the public for your mental development, this is not correct.  To be new is important, but to be understandable. The public has to follow you because the public pays the finances of the theater and the public is sitting there and looking and if they don’t understand, I don’t mean they don’t understand in a primitive way, but if they don’t understand at least they have to feel that this is new.


By: Nevena Popovska
Photo credit: Aleksandar Ivanovski