"Placido Domingo is the best tenor in the world and he would not ask to go out in front of the curtain alone . . . . Why does Pavarotti go out alone? I was great success, no? They give standing ovation. They why does Pavarotti go out alone? I go home . . .," and pointing her finger straight at the TV camera, Renata Scotto added, in Italian, "I get out of this s---."
The famous diva had just finished singing the title role in Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" on opening night at the San Francisco Opera last fall and was fuming in her dressing room. Nor was that everything she has on her mind about Luciano Pavarotti, her Enzo in the cast.
When an admirer came into her room a moment later and unfortunately introduced himself as "a friend of Pavarotti," Scotto snapped at him, "He's not a good friend. So if you are a friend of his, be careful!"
These are only a few of the real-life, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the way an opera is put together and finally reaches the stage of one of the world's major opera houses to be had tomorrow at 10 p.m. on Channel 26. (The actual performance of the opera will be broadcast in four parts beginning Monday night).
The signs of the kind of rivalry that sometimes exists between superstars appear early in the unusually well-planned and photographed show. Word comes unexpectedly that Pavarotti will arrive in San Francisco much later than he was supposed to. One of the assistants says, "Pavarotti is arriving late, so now Scotto is arriving late, too." No one is going to upstage that diva!
Pavarotti's first entrance, late though it is, is a sensation. He strides through the backstage area wearing a burnoose, the long black cloak concealing his enormous girth, the white hood with its black band making him a twin for an Arab chieftain. Arriving at general director Kurt Adler's desk, he picks up a cup of coffee and, in spite of Adler's protesting "that's mine!" Pavarotti quickly adds three lumps of sugar and starts to drink.
The tape will show you how an opera is put together from a chorus rehearsal three months before opening night ("No, you have to put more passion in it, and get the consonants in ahead of the beat, otherwise you will never be heard over the cymbols") through auditions for the ballet (you remember the Dance of the Hours!) to the assistant conductor telling baritone Norman Mittleman that his intonation is off.
No one tells La Scotto that her intonation is also off, both in rehearsing and in the performance in her big "Suicidio!" But it is fascinating to hear stage director Lotfi Mansouri coaching Scotto in how she must react when she first thinks of taking her own life.
The film will let you hear singers "marking," through rehearsals -- singing high notes on octave low, saving their voices while preparing the action and singing to come. The costume department hopes Pavarotto has not changed weight much, since their measurements are old. He hasn't, as far as you can see, although he says he has lost lots of it.)
And the chorus director sternly admonishes the men about BO: "The costumes are new, and if you are told to wear T-shirts, wear them." Things you might never think about when you go to the opera.