Saturday, January 17, 2009

Armando Iannucci, librettist


I heard on Radio 4 the other day that the comedy genius Armando Iannucci has "written an opera", as they put it, although as he himself admits, he has actually provided the words. The composer is David Sawer. Traditionally, an opera is the composer's piece, and it is the composer's name that is associated with it. The librettist does not usually get a look in. It's Verdi's La Traviata, not Piave's. But the Today Programme package I listened to failed to even mention the composer's name. Skin Deep, we were told, is a new opera by Armando Iannucci. I wonder how David Sawer feels about that!

I haven't seen it yet, though I am hoping to do so soon, when it transfers down to London. I was very interested to read this article by Iannucci about the process in The Times. As I've also written a libretto for an opera, I identified with a lot that he said, particularly this:

Somebody asked me to write an opera. I wasn’t expecting that. Being asked to write an opera is like being asked to demolish a power station or go in a rocket with Al Pacino: it’s not something you’d ever expect to do in your lifetime. You’ve got to say “yes” no matter the amount of trepidation that soon follows once you’ve agreed.


This too struck a chord:

it’s always a useful constraint on the ego to wallow in a line you’ve written only to be told that it needs to be four syllables shorter. You realise that you are there to service the music, not the other way round. Your words are like costume and scenery; part of a larger experience.


I would add that it is an amazing experience to hear words you've written set to music by a brilliant composer and sung by fantastically talented singers. It's an enormous privilege that's strangely humbling too.

And as an extra treat, here's a clip from Armando Iannucci's previous operatic work, Ibiza Uncovered: The Opera

3 comments:

Lucy McCarraher said...

Hi Roger,
Just to let you know I'm back from the writing dead with a couple of new novels out and blogging again. Must get a copy of your latest book, it looks great! What are you working on at the moment?

Anonymous said...

Hi Roger,
Me again. Thanks for your comment on what used to be my writing blog. I wanted to start a new one for Mr Mikey, but hadn't realised I had to start a new account for a second blog if it was for a different "person". So I ended up deleting my whole original blog in order to open a new account for it (as Mr Mikey had taken over the old one - an apt metaphor for him) at which point the site wouldn't give me back my old name. So my new general writing blog is www.lucy-mccarraher.blogspot.com - apparently the hyphen makes me a different person. Brilliant that you're finishing your third Russian novel. Have you actually been to St Petersburg in all this process, or felt the need to? Sounds like you're on a deadline, so good luck with it.
Lucy x

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