thumbnail of Opening Night: The Making of an Opera
Hide -
This television presentation of La Gioconda is made possible by a grant from BankAmerica Corporation. Act 1, gentlemen, please. Seven measures.
Let's stop there. Suddenly, there's a sudden eruption of bells and the orchestra and you sing [inaudible], the whole - the holiday mood of the thing has to kind of much more you know, it's very difficult to do sitting here. Three months before the performance, but you have nearly no more rehearsals. I think beyond the holiday you're going to a regatta, you're going to see who wins a boat race. Beyond that and the obvious jollity and festivity, I think there's fever in the music, you know, it's there in the accompaniment. It's there in what you do. And so with all the jollity it needs, twice the fever, twice the excitement. Uh, let's have the seven bars again.
It needs more animal energy. I'm sorry. Put the accents on the little eighth notes and the rest will come out. Ready and [singing] Wow. Isn't that gorgeous? Here's what I was hoping with that was just that because that first actress so much thing happening at that time I had sold me the idea and you don't know me, but he knows I always come as spontaneous reaction before I forget to mention the downstage.
So brilliant. That mad question, how do you light the upstage was prompted by the choruses? Well, actually, because, you know, you must remember and that the first act it starts like like high noon and goes to the evening. Yeah. And you'd have the whole kind of gamut of the palette of the, uh, day. No, not at all. Because you could start with a brilliant sunlight, diminution, sunlight and then slowly builds toward. The operation is overwhelming. Good. No I that's what your point is overwhelming. I think when you read the first act everything is - it is an overwhel - it's a fantastic piece. I find it's marvelous, its got everything that every opera should have. It's got romance. It's got explosion. It's got murder. It's got passion, jealousy, intrigue. What? What? Everything every good opera should have. I feel it. Absolutely. Opera without all these goodies is no opera. But no, why don't you set up Act 2? I think what Zach is that is trying to create a very, very theatrical kind
of a surround in which you can really play. And I think he's given me marvelous units that I can really work with. By the way before I forget, I'd better give you the telephone number of Breslin, the big, difficult agent of Pavarotti's. But you have to waive it because - He's going to be out in San Francisco, right there right? No, I didn't. That's what you told me. Pavarotti, but not this agent! Why do I have to talk to him? Because Pavarotti will be in outer space and you won't be able to reach him and you will have to talk sooner or later to Mr. Breslin. There's no escapes. You know, these people Bob Walker is really a character. You know how long we've been negotiating and we still have not come to a to a conclusion on the contract for the San Francisco Opera. Gioconda. My God almighty. As you would think that San Francisco would have learned a little better from what the other opera companies are doing. No, no, no.
All the pictures out of San Francisco. Everybody out there is, [inadible discussion] To whom? No, the Met will do that. Will you leave a message to call her? Herbert Breslin. Oh, Bob. Listen, I was very interested to tell you when I'm going to finally get the contract on the Pavarotti thing for a TV show in Seattle, the day before. Well, did the boss finally glance at it. Did you. Did he agree to all of my terms? He didn't. Well, it's about time. He's always squabbles about something. I love Kurt, but he's the biggest squabble in the entire world. [Laughter] Oh, he did. I'm sure you had a few kind things to say about Herbert Breslin, I guess. Anyway, what else can we do for the San Francisco Opera except put you on the map and make you famous and important? Good morning, ladies. I'm Margo Sappington.
This is Jane Theland, she'll be assisting me. Uh, We're here today, as you know, to audition for La Gioconda. Uh, I'm looking for eight girls. Six of whom will work in, uh, Gioconda and in [inaudible]. OK. So, as I teach it to you I will shift lines so everybody will get a chance to learn. OK, let's go together from the beginning. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Skirt, five, six, seven, eight. Well, opera is an incredibly, uh, complex art form because of the fact that it's not just one art form - it is a composite art form. That's why it's so dark and it's so complex. People don't realize that because a symphony orchestra is just a part of an opera and
the ballet is just one element. Hold it, go! Lovely. It's one of those things that we have to work until that curtain goes up. Uh, you're walking on eggshells, you know, and at the same time, you have to bring in about 300 people, 350 people together, if you include the orchestra and the ballet and the supers and et cetera, and make it all look like a unit and make everything fit in like a magnificent puzzle which is made of like three hundred fifty different pieces. Let's get on to the conflagration and the sinking of the boat. I've never dealt with flames and I have only seen things in opera that I thought were unsatisfactory. So maybe then we could come up with something that would [inaudbile dialogue] actually work. This spectacular effect that you could do through the doors if they were practical and could open is upstage of that we could use. It's a Hollywood technique of using the, um, mother
of pearl Mylar with a light below and a fan on it, and you can then put a tremendous amount of light on it. How many people do you think that could be stored inside, be in the inside? I have no idea. I mean, right now, I don't know what happens down here. This little ladder goes down the back and there's a boat waiting. But we do have do we have to leave? How wide are those doors? Three feet? I think they should be [inaudible]. I'm from the fire standpoint. So they're going to exit out well to safety. We put fire exit over each one. This layout and then, uh, this -- Good morning. Morning. Good morning. Keep the quality on piano.
118 Otherwise, there's no attack, symbol's will be there and you won't even be heard once. Once more [inaudible]. It's not good, the attack. Once more. [Singing] Move a little, basis. [Singing]
It needs much more [inaduble] at the end. We could, we could mention, mount a diagonal at the end, no? Let's go over there. So what is it upstage now? I think 9, 9.7, I think, 9.7 yeah. We're way behind on this. We don't have a fourth act yet. It's not a long effect. I just want a startled effect. Bright movement, explosions, smoke. There would be nobody in here. [Inaudible] has promised me that once the conflagration starts, this is up to us. Mean, this is ours. There's no singers, there's no performers. There's nobody in the ay. Go off. Let it down a little bit, Rodney.
Move it more. Rodney, a little straight. It's good? Go ahead. Off stage and then take it up, that parallel is - that parallel is going to move. Get a seat here. You started it easy. Yeah. I saw. Give it some slack, and stop it. It's good. George, can I see Pavaratti's coat on the stand. I think Pattiaratchi gets in on Sunday night. And uh, Resin wants us to fit him Sunday night. But it's impossible, you know, after that play - after the flight. I don't think you want to stand for two hours! Any hope he hasn't changed his weight too much because we have old measurements, as you know. All right. So you don't mind if everything doesn't come into the scene, but I can still go ahead and
put this one closure down on the front. And just think as far as Scott has been, so we won't have too much problem with her because we did have the fitting before she went away. And, uh, certainly her figure's. wonderful and things fit her very well. Something more this color. Then they set it in right underneath it. The collar color? Yeah, I think so. Then it'll match this when you saw it on. Okay, I'll do that if I can. Yeah. Pipe it off and then put it in my hand. This is the entire Gioconda cast and rehearsals are starting tomorrow. So for all of them, they should check in with us tonight. And bad news, Scotter is not arriving until the 22nd. And Pavarotti, as we know, is not arriving until the 23rd. Unfortunately, although musical rehearsals have already started, Mr Abbott is fuming. Yeah. Because now that ship is we've got it to do redo the whole - whole scans.
OK, now we gotta get first now, let's get Fulloneto for his aria. And we just have to jump from scene to scene because she's involved in every act. So we have to move around. Why is she coming? Well, I think Pavarotti's coming late. So Ms. Scotto's gonna arrive late. But, uh, well, we have to do it Thursday. When did you find out? I just found out about 10 minutes ago. One to [singing] [Singing in Italian] Oh, look at this. This and [inaudbile]. From here to 10, I think one bar before [inaudible]. No, I'm not speaking about that. It's an intonation. Denton I know. It's I know it's always a limit. Yeah, he wrote it wrong. Yeah, but maybe. But he wrote it, he wrote it.
It felt I was good to me, [singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian] [Piano]
Ms. Renata Scotto. [Speaking in Italian] Can I have this design, please, for Ms. Scotto? Because I thought if I could show you the set. You have put me in the best position. to put them in the best place, you know, why would I do that? I take the chorus completely off stage and I have all supers here and you come out. All the supers are facing upstage. You alone come forward and go forward and we finish with you completely, completely destroyed at the end of that. And what I do there, and then I take all the lights down. I only concentrate on Gioconda because it's a very inner thing, very special. She's destroyed. Oh, I like you very much. We play on the ball. When an artist becomes a certain superstar, they have a fantastic pressure on them because a lot of their fans, a lot of the public is waiting to see what are these people
doing in this new role? What is it Luciano Pavarotti doing? What is it Ms. Renata Scotto doing in a new role? So there is that tension. There is that insecurity. Is it going to work? Is it not gonna work? Is that part? Is that vocal effect gonna be good enough? Is that gonna be powerful enough? Is he always going to understand it dramatically? Am I gonna be believable? Can I relate to my part? Can I relate to my partner? Is the costume gonna fit me? I'm gonna trip on the stairs on a high note. You know, there are so many of these things and therefore, a period of putting an opera together is a very, very high tension period. [Singing in Italian]. [Singing in Italian].
[Singing in Italian] It's not a good position for the audience. No, because if you pull her - no because what would be good, if you take - come with me. Yeah. See? Yeah. But see, she's in front of me. So, so sideways? Because you have to pull her. She wouldn't go. You know, if we find something else, how? How. Because I feel. Because you know that. She stay there. And I go there. It's not - it's not as dramatic, you see, because if you see they're looking up, it makes it very bad. But if you have to pull her a little bit, lets make it 50/50, start to pull her. And then you go and then I go, OK. All right. Oh, no, no. I have to see the boss [Laughter].
You have to buy your luggage. Yeah, I see that completely out of gasoline. Oh, did you know that? You really look fabulous. Oh, how are you? You lose weight. Yes. They take a picture of you. Is it my coffee? No, that's mine. Good to. He already has three sugars. Sugar. He put three already. Hey, listen, I've done it in the park once. We do the best [inaudible]. OK. You've never done it. I have to think about it. Now we can see you, but you can't see. [Inaudible] Don't worry, we think better than you. Didn't you? [Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian]
[Speaking in Italian]. OK. No, no, no. Because one thing is that when he starts, it's very subtle. One thing is very important when you say - when he starts saying, I loved Gioconda, he is terrible. He makes you. He's awful. You get to know him how awful he is. And he says that. And then when he's at when, when the [inaudible] does this badly off the abborro or he should do it [inaudible Italian] rather than tamborro a little bit more. I think we need to be a little bit more formal. Formal, formal. Yeah, exactly. He makes you sick the way he is. Ack, he's terrible! [Singing in Italian]
[Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian] And then turn into leg first and then open. Yes. Right. Right. That's it. Turn into it here. And then and then your arm and leg come up. Yes. Right. Exactly. 7 and 8. And.
[Humming]. And up and turn. For a Catholic woman to think of suicide [gasp]. Damn her soul for eternity is something a big tragedy, a big day for Gioconda. To think of suicide is something [inaudible italian]. That's why it's a beautiful scene that this which, you know, is like as if this fantastic woman was full of life. Think of damning her soul. That's why then when she's so happy, when she says Enzo is going to kill me. Ah! What happened? Because you would rather die by the hand of Enzo than kill yourself. For you. The happiest moment is if Enzo would kill you. If Enzo would kill me. [Singing in Italian]
Looking at it, practically indecision. [Italian] [Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian]
[Singing in Italian]. I find even if you stay - no, no, no - I would suggest even stay up higher. I can stay with the - exactly. Exactly. Because it's still strong. [Singing in Italian] [Singing and speaking in Italian] [Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian] [Construction noises and shouting]
[Construction noises and shouting] Hello darling! Oh Barbara, I didn't even say, hello!. I'm sorry. Oh, sweetheart, I'm so glad you're here. Custumes looking lovely. What about the sleeves? They tight enough? They long enough? We want to do the red one with [inaudible]. Oh, the red. Oh, you are right there. Hello? 1, 2, 3, out.
Looks like he's got a center line. All right. Right in here. [Construction noises and shouting] [Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian]
[Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian]
[Singing in Italian]
[Whispered stage directions] Alright coming down stage with it, easy on it. [Shouting]
[Singing in Italian, mumbling] [Singing in Italian] But the procession was late, way too late.
Richard, this is Mr. Littleman, is that ok? That's fine, it could be a little looser. Well, can it be combed down his head? Absolutely. Because he will want to mess with it, absolutely. No, that's perfect. Ms. Scotto will be the only one with the real [inaudible]. Be careful because she changes her mind. Oh yeah. I mean it's it's easier to - it's easier almost to pull it up and push it down. This one, it's much fuller than the other one since it was down with no control. Did she - I have a question. Did she actually try the wig on? No. So it could possibly be?. Yeah. It could now be too big and we would have to be make it for the fifth time. Well, I think we should especially put a drawstring in for her. She's being very good. She really is. She's just nervous. I mean everyone's nervous. It's more shading a little more. I don't know, because with this lights it it's a little different and maybe without --.
You really look about 16. It really is a wonderful style, it, let's see, on stage. Gentlemen, I would like to remind you, and I'm going to remind you often and often this season about [inaudible]. Now the costumes are new. I'm serious. Now pay attention. The costumes are new. We have new t-shirts for everybody this year. I want you to wear your t-shirts whenever your dresser tells you you need a T-shirt on. I had a few notes for you and I would love to talk to you before we go on. If you mind me one minute, okay. Because one of the marvelous things that I would love to [radio sounds]. That was very difficult for you.
You had all my sympathy, [laughter]. No. It was very difficult. Very difficult without any sense of [speaking in Italian] as they say in Italian. And you were very angry. One thing, Giocando was always little bit more contact with it because otherwise she comes out a little bit [inaudible]. But I was angry. I know. [Speaking in Italian]. When I get angry, I show. You were very good. [Speaking in Italian]. But, no, I have too many things. I know I am. And we are in the final -- But think about Giocanda. Where's the light cue? That was too late, way too late. [Singing in Italian]
There should be more dances with the [inaudible Italian]. Force much stronger, this is all dead. [Singing in Italian] Where is the monk? The monk should be - yeah - the monk should be. Yeah. The monk is in front of us, rather than in back of us. The chorus is in the way for the people who sit on the right. They cannot see him.
[Mumbled discussion] Oh, I see. Oh, yeah. Okay. [Singing in Italian]
Ladies and gentlemen, this is an extremely fast scene change into act two, so please be ready to take the stage as fast as possible. We're running late. [Construction noises and shouting] [Construction noises and shouting]
[Singing in Italian] the entire world is exploding. [Singing in Italian] [Sound of explosion, speaking in Italian] [Speaking in Italian]
There are no seats at all. It is sold out for every performance. We will sell standing-room for each two hours before. Hello, David. This is Mimi, from the Opera Guild. [phone ringing and office sounds] Can you try Mr. Pavaratti's room? Or is that still? You're not to disturb him? You're not to disturb him, All right. Thank you. OK. What was down there? All right. So we have ten at one. Well, where do we have extra places that we could stick singles from? They aren't easy. You have to clear all this. And we will be back at 6 o'clock to bring you live all the excitement here at the Opera House. It's the opening of La Gioconda at the 57th opening of the Opera House. Somebody's giving you a rose. A first here on midday television, the star of the opera comes out and talks with the people. So you saw it all here first, folks. Thanks for joining us. Have a real good weekend.
Remember, it's a full moon. And thank you, ladies. You all look beautiful. We'll see you on Monday on Midday. Buh-bye. [street noises and mumbled discussion] I have the key here in case. Please, please, ladies. We got a complaint about talking backstage last night. [Discussion] I just I'd prefer to do something in theater. That's my interest and my degree. Right now I'm cutting vegetables for salad and soup, and I can't handle it. [crowd and street noises]
What time, for example, is now? 7 or quarter to7. Can you tell the stage door that I am waiting for Mr. Fleming from Time magazine. OK. John, give me the rundown again, what's happening? We do this. What do we do? We B.S., we roll in the parties, and then what? Spencer, there's an unusual amount of excitement about tonight's opera opening. It's a night when we all want to say it's OK, maybe to dress up again a bit. That beauty and glamor maybe is a part of our lives that we could not really feel guilty about. The opening is tonight. In just about 20 minutes go by and everyone's looking forward to it, including myself. You're not even on. I wasn't on? no, I was just getting - ahh. Suzanne? No, no, no [speaking in Italian].
I guess he would do pin. Let's play Richard. I guess the way people do. OK, let's just let's do it because I want to before we begin the opera. Now, I want to tell you what we expect all the ushers to do tonight. Be very, very careful, very, very polite. Remember, these people are our guests and we have to take care of them. Do not touch any customer. If you take a tip that's up to you, but do not tell anybody else about it. They play Aida outside. Nothing to do with this costume. Five minutes. Hi. Are you in center stage? What about you? Well, I can't go on stage, but I need them to see. And so I'll take your glasses off. It's a question of where to put them. Do you have a dressing room? On the fourth floor. I can't see to go down the stairs to
the stage. [loud conversation] Places please. Oh, my God. I'm not ready, guys, guys. I have to go. [Stage noises]? It's a warning on the house curtain please. [Applause and music] House curtain, go! [Applause and singing]
[Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian] [Singing in Italian]
[Singing in Italian] [Applause]
Ms. Scotto on stage for curtain calls, please. [Speaking in Italian] Ms. Scotto, to the stafe for the curtain call please. [Speaking in Italian] [Speakin in Italian] I'm not good. They loved you. It was a great, great success. I heard that. You don't have to tell me. Yes, you always got a standing ovation. So why did they decide to go out alone? Ms. Scotto to the stage please. But you did it first and it was. Yes, you know, I did not. I mean, when I sing Butterfyly, the tenor doesn't go alone. [laughter] If instead
of Pavarati was the best tenor in the world, You wouldn't ask it to go alone outside. So. So you were too hard. You. Yes, I know. I know. I know. I get sort of Sanada for New York and I go I go home, which I will have feel much better than staying here in [speaking Italian] 445 [muffled conversation]. I have to go out in the wind. Gone with the wind. There you are. How are you? Good. [Loud conversations]. You don't remember these girls. They were in Chicago together.
[Loud conversations] Hi. You were wonderful. Thank you. OK. I get out today. Oh, wonderful. Truly. Wow. It was wonderful. Tonight was fa. So not too long. Are you coming back next year? No. Never. Oh, don't tell me that story. How can I stay away from San Francisco? Well, I think at least we were consistent till the end.
Opening Night: The Making of an Opera
Producing Organization
KCET (Television station : Los Angeles, Calif.)
Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.)
Krainin/Sage Productions (Firm)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-526-cf9j38mm0w).
Episode Description
"This is the introductory program, "Opening Night: The Making of an Opera," as described above. The first episode in the series follows a production of La Gioconda at the San Francisco Opera house. The episode details the creation of costumes, wigs, lighting, set design, and music rehearsals. The show interviews professionals such as Herbert Breslin, Luciano Pavarotti's agent, Lofti Mansouri, the stage director, and Richard Bradshaw, the chorus master. The episode provides viewers with a glimpse of how opera singers Renata Scotto and Luciano Pavarotti prepare for their roles. Renata Scotto performed the role of La Gioconda, and Luciano Pavarotti performed the role of Enzo Grimaldi. The episode also follows rehearsals for ballet dancers under the direction of Margo Sappington, the principal choreographer.
Series Description
"In a unique public television concept, KCET/Los Angeles presented the San Francisco's Opera's production of LA GIOCONDA as a six part series with documentary material. All six episodes in the series were broadcast nationally via PBS over six evenings within the same week (April 1980). The series began with an hour documentary entitled 'Opening Night-The Making of an Opera.' This program provided viewers with an illuminating and candid account of the behind-the-scenes activities and preparations leading to curtain time. The program offered a rare, perhaps even unprecedented look at the 'working' level of the world of opera. This was followed by a four-part mini-series, 'Opera From San Francisco: LA GIOCONDA Act By Act,' hosted by actor Tony Randall. Here, the mounting suspense of the story unfolds in 4 nightly one-hour programs. Randall introduces each of LA GIOCONDA's four acts alerting viewers to salient plot turns and musical highlights and adding synopses where needed. For purposes of submission to the Peabody Awards, enclosed please find a cassette of LA GIOCONDA Act By Act - Act 2. The series concluded with an encore presentation of the original live broadcast of LA GIOCONDA in its entirety (three hours). "The series represents an experiment by PBS and KCET to acquaint new audiences with the overall entertainment value of a theatrical opera experience. To this extent, an educational learning kit was distributed to approximately 60 high school districts throughout California prior to broadcast of the series. It was anticipated that the programs and educational materials would attract non-opera viewers and engage them in wanting to see this opera and opera in general. Enclosed: 1) LA GIOCONDA press kit, 2) LA GIOCONDA learning kit."--1980 Peabody Awards entry form.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: KCET (Television station : Los Angeles, Calif.)
Producing Organization: Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.)
Producing Organization: Krainin/Sage Productions (Firm)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-1e37902829e (Filename)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 1:00:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Opening Night: The Making of an Opera,” 1980-04-13, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Opening Night: The Making of an Opera.” 1980-04-13. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Opening Night: The Making of an Opera. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from