Zaza neu 1280x680 © beyond Eva Vasari

Commedia lirica in four acts (1919)

Music by Ruggero Leoncavallo

Libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo and Carlo Zangarini

based on the play by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon

In Italian with German surtitles

New production of Theater an der Wien

Premiere: Wednesday, 16 September 2020, 7 pm

Performances: 18 / 21 / 23 / 25 / 27 September 2020, 7 pm until 9 pm (no intermission)

Synopsis

Zazà is the acclaimed star of the Alcazar variety theatre in St. Etienne, a provincial French town somewhere beyond the outskirts of Paris. All the men adore her, with the exception of the Parisian businessman Milio Dufresne who seems to prefer her rival, Floriana. What seems unobtainable becomes the thing most desired: Zazà has long had her eye on the obstinate man and now enters into a wager with the journalist Bussy that he will fall for her in next to no time. The conquest is easy for her, since Milio secretly desires Zazà but has not yet had the courage to approach a woman coveted by so many, not least because he fears for his reputation. Zazà’s bold attempt to seduce him quickly dispels his misgivings and the two become lovers. However, this conquest prompted by ambition proves Zazà’s undoing. She falls deeply in love with Milio, and wants to marry him and leave the music hall behind. But the dream is shattered when Cascart, her stage colleague and former lover, tells her that he saw Milio in Paris with another woman. Furious, Zazà travels to Paris and bursts into Milio’s flat to fight for her future with her rival. But the only person she finds there is a little girl: Totò, Milio’s daughter. The girl tells the nice stranger all about her mother and that the little family will soon be going to America. Gradually Zazà realises that Milio is married and has been lying to her about his circumstances all along. When Madame Dufresne eventually comes home she is surprised to see a stranger in her living room. Zazà tells her that she accidentally came to the wrong address and then leaves. She decides not to destroy the family’s happiness, remembering her own childhood misery and not wishing to inflict the same fate on little Totò: Zazà's father left her mother Anaide who then took to drink. When Milio next comes to Zazà she ends their affair. He then reveals to her his true, conservative attitudes, and she is left without so much as a happy memory of romantic love. She sadly accepts that her fate is to be a music hall star.

 

Ruggero Leoncavallo’s fame rests on one single opera, Pagliacci. First performed in 1892, its global success was instrumental in establishing the verismo style. Real opera buffs may know that Leoncavallo also wrote a version of La bohème to compete with Giacomo Puccini’s work. But Zazà landed him a genuine hit during his lifetime. Following its first performance at the Teatro Lirico in Milan in 1900, Zazà was frequently given in international houses, providing that a prima donna was available with the skill to tackle the demanding title role. In fact, Zazà recorded its greatest success in the 1920s at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Like Pagliacci, Zazà is also written in the verismo style. It is set in the glamorous world of artists, although its protagonists are not a travelling commedia dell’arte troupe as in Pagliacci, but semi-resident music hall artistes whose reputation is scarcely better than that of their itinerant colleagues. The portrayal of gaudy entertainments and the Parisian bourgeoisie at home opened up many musical opportunities for Leoncavallo. In Act I he vividly evokes the atmosphere backstage using a kind of collage technique that was experimental and avant-garde for the time. A variety of musical styles overlap: the declamatory and recitative-like style of the backstage conversations mingles with the musical numbers on the stage. Similarly, in Act III in Paris he overlays the conversations, the sound of Totò playing the piano and the singing of the washerwomen that floats up into the bourgeois salon through the window from the Seine. The declamatory flow, broadly following Wagnerian principles, is often punctuated by aria-like snatches which, however, never develop into catchy melodies, something that has undoubtedly prevented Zazà from gaining greater popularity. Leoncavallo was himself familiar with the music hall atmosphere, the life led by the singers and the bourgeois hypocrisy he exposes in his work because prior to the success of Pagliacci he earned his living as a pianist in such establishments in Paris. Shortly before his death in 1919 he made some cuts to Zazà in the interests of tightening the plot. At the Theater an der Wien we are showing this second version, supplemented by three numbers from the original 1900 version.

Cast

Conductor

Stefan Soltész

Biography
Director

Christof Loy

Biography
Stage design

Raimund Orfeo Voigt

Biography
Costume design

Herbert Barz-Murauer

Biography
Choreography

Thomas Wilhelm

Biography
Light design

Reinhard Traub

Biography
Dramaturgy

Klaus Bertisch

Biography
Zazá

Svetlana Aksenova

Biography
Anaide, ihre Mutter

Enkelejda Shkosa

Biography
Floriana, Sängerin / Signora Dufresne

Dorothea Herbert

Biography
Natalia, Zazàs Freundin

Juliette Mars

Biography
Milio Dufresne

Nikolai Schukoff

Biography
Madame Dufresne, seine Frau

Dorothea Herbert

Biography
Totó Dufresne

Vittoria Antonuzzo / Livia Gallenga

Biography
Cascart, Sänger

Christopher Maltman

Biography
Bussy, Journalist

Tobias Greenhalgh

Biography
Courtois, Impresario

Paul Schweinester

Biography
Duclou, Regisseur

Ivan Zinoviev / Dumitru Mădăraşăn

Biography
Marco / Augusto

Johannes Bamberger

Biography
Un signore

Patrick Maria Kühn

Biography
Claretta

Ena Topcibasic

Biography
Simona

Liliya Namisnyk

Biography
Marco, Concierge bei Dufresne

Johannes Bamberger

Biography
Zwei spanische Tänzer

Anna Possarnig / Elias Morales

Biography
Zwei Clowns

Beatriz Delgardo Flores / Elvis Grezda

Biography
Zwei Artisten

Carina Nopp / Diego Federico

Biography
Ankleiderin

Lilo Besold

Biography
Feuerwehrmann

Fabio Coutinho

Biography
Orchestra

ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien

Biography
Choir

Arnold Schoenberg Chor (Ltg. Erwin Ortner)

Biography

Photos Gallery

Zazà

Premiere: 16 September 2020

Director: Christof Loy

Stage designer: Raimund Orfeo Voigt

Costume designer: Herbert Barz-Murauer

Light designer: Reinhard Traub

Photos: (c) Monika Rittershaus

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