Napoli Milionaria - De Filippo's Opera revived

[img_assist|nid=7909|title=Eduardo De Filippo, author of Napoli Milionaria|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=241|height=350]17th March 2013

LTL Opera Studio and the Orchestra Della Toscana at Teatro Goldoni

At the end of a week in which the whole city of Livorno had had to cope with no water for four days due to a damaged mains pipe, it seemed kind of appropriate on Friday to be seeing an opera telling the story of the hardships of a family in Naples during World War II.

Napoli Milionaria was written by Neapolitan actor and playwright Eduardo De Filippo (1900 Naples - 1984 Rome) and composer Nino Rota (1911 Milan - 1979 Rome). It tells the story of the Iovene family in back street Naples where Donna Amalia does her best to keep her family going by dealing on the black market. Her husband, Gennaro, is against this illegal dealing but realises there is little else they can do to survive. When he goes missing and is presumed dead, Amalia continues to prosper while her family and all its values fall apart around her. He returns unexpectedly to find his wife unfaithful, his son mixed up in illegal deals, and his daughter pregnant. A tragic ending is inevitable.

The stage-set is refreshingly spartan, making good use of lighting, few props and simple 40s dress to create the atmosphere of the Neapolitan home and its family members. It soon becomes apparent that this is an opera with a modern appeal, one that should attract a new and younger theatre goer. Despite its gloomy message about the loss of human values, the opera is a delight to watch, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic. The singers give an excellent performance (especially Gaia Matteini as Amalia, and Paola Santucci as Maria Rosaria), and Nino Rota's music, with its familiar Neapolitan themes, is brilliantly rendered by the (unfortunately invisible) Orchestra della Toscana conducted by Matteo Beltrami. 

The little-known opera is the most recent production by the LTL (Laboratorio Toscano per la Lirica) Opera Studio, a project which began in 2001 with the aim of searching for and promoting talented young opera singers and of reviving operas not often seen in theatres. Initiated by Tuscany's three "Teatri di Tradizione" - Teatro del Giglio in Lucca, Teatro Goldoni in Livorno and Teatro Verdi in Pisa -, the project has presented several varied productions including The Threepenny Opera by Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weil (2012).

Napoli Milionaria was first written by De Filippo for the theatre in 1945. It premiered at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples and toured theatres all over Europe (it was performed in London as The Millions of Naples in 1972). The play was adapted for the National Theatre by English scriptwriter Peter Tinniswood in 1991. In 1950 the play was made into a film (with the English title Side Street Story), De Filippo himself playing the lead male character, Gennaro Iovene. The well-known actor Totò also appeared in the film which participated at the Cannes film festival in 1951. 

The opera version was first conceived, again by De Filippo, in the 1970s and was performed for the first time at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto (Umbria) in 1977. This new production brings the opera to the stage for only the second time in its history, but it is one that deserves to be staged on a much more regular basis in the future.

There is still a chance to see Napoli Milionaria at the Teatro Verdi in Pisa on Saturday 23rd March 2013 at 8.30pm. Click here to buy tickets online.