BWW Interviews: Aprile Millo Returns To Italy - Diva to Sing her First Il Tabarro!
It's all over the papers in Italy and it's burning up the opera chat rooms. Legendary opera diva Aprile Millo is returning to Italy this month to perform for the first time in what seems like ages. Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa is the place and Puccini's Il Tabarro is the opera. Madame Millo took a break from her preparation to chat with BroadwayWorld.com.
First of all, thanks so much for taking time out of rehearsal to chat with us. Please tell us how all this came about.
I very happily received the news from the historic Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa that they would like me to make my return to Italy, in a debut role singing Giorgetta in Puccini's atmospheric Il Tabarro, which in Italian means the cloak. Il tabarro (The Cloak) is an opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami, based on Didier Gold's play La houppelande. Il tabarro is a one-act opera and along with Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, it comprises Il trittico (triptych). Puccini had the idea of basing his three works on Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Paradise) from La Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) by Dante, with Il tabarro corresponding to Inferno. It was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1918. The woman who debuted the role in the premiere at the Metropolitan Opera was a great singing actress who I have long adored and it pleases me that we are performing my debut in this role on what would have been her birthday, Feb. 7. the great Claudia Muzio. It is called simply a Puccini Gala, and "Suor Angelica" and "Il Tabarro" are the operas for the evening, the first being with my very wonderful colleague, and beautiful expressive voice of Donata D'Annunzio Lombardi as Suor Angelica. The conductor will be the fabulous Donato Renzetti.
A lot of singers would have chosen a role they know through and through. It's a gutsy thing returning to the operatic stage in a totally new role. What are the challenges you've encountered with Giorgietta?
All opera is challenging, even the ones you know! It is an honor and a privilege to be debuting her especially in Italy, but she is a one-act gal. We experience in one sitting the arch of what would be the worst day and night of her life. She sings in a haunting melody near the end of the opera that she remembers him saying that everyone in life carries some part of them under a cloak, a part they hold secret...sometimes it is joy and sometimes it is a sadness... Unhappy, having lost a child, she yearns for a different life, a life she remembers growing up, not certainly the one she is living now. She married an older man and after their loss, they lose communication with each other, even while living and working together in close proximity on a boat, constantly floating on the waters. The monotony gets to her. She falls in love with another man, and so begins the "cloak" (Il Tabarro") part of her life. The hidden, the affair, secret meetings at night, lying, this is so hard to live much less sing. In true Verismo power the whole sorted affair comes to light at the end of the opera, and not only she pays a huge price. It is very intense, and the emotion is hard to sing past. It feels like we are indeed in a kind of hell or purgatory. Intense Verismo to its core. Puccini paints this all vividly in his music....it is hypnotic.
A verismo heroine, especially one by Puccini, is written very much in the emotion of what you are saying. The words must carry as much as the music, they MUST be understood always. He has her speaking, and long stretches of truly spoken dialogue sung carry the action forward. The musical palate is very different from Verdi, but they both are men of the theater so I just trust in them and apply the same bel-canto rigors to both, search for a noble and truthful sound for her soul, and stay within each of these great geniuses style. Not an easy task, and one I look forward to doing. She will be my sixth Puccini role, the first was Liu in Turandot, then Tosca, Fanciulla del West, Le Villi, the third act of the Berio ending of Turandot, as Turandot and now Giorgetta.
Do you approach a new role differently now than you did earlier in your career?
No, not really. I always tried and did sing with my voice. Never went outside the box, even when Von Karajan himself asked for Elsa, in Lohengrin and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. I would sing the arias of these operas but always preferred to stay to Bel Canto, Bellini, Verdi, and then ultimately, the great Verismo composers.
How is singing in Europe and Italy in particular different than singing in the US? Houses? Audiences? Etc. And do you prefer one over the other?
They all come loving opera. Wanting to be moved, and desiring to hear something that excites them. In Italy, they understand every word, so it makes it a little bit easier there. I find audiences all over the world eager for a moment of transcendence. You can't plan for it, but you can hope for it. If you let the composer lead and you sing with everything you have it generally happens. That moment of magic. It makes all the sacrifice and hard work fade away, and in that moment we all are touched by something I think divine.