ANTONELLI'S NOSE - an Opera Buffa in Four Scenes
Story, libretto, and music by Richard White
A Brooklyn Opera Theater Production
Cast and Production Crew for the World Premiere, December, 5, 1987
Caspar Antonelli . . . Peter Emery
Josephina Antonelli. . . Theresa Snyder
Dorothy Antonelli. . . Janice Lamb
Frank Rossi . . . William Hooven
Carlo Rossi . . . Larry Picard
Seymour Weinstock . . . Michael Alhonte
Maestro Pasta Pasquale . . . Nathaniel Green
The Nose . . . Terry Langendoen
Artistic Director, and Staging . . . Nathaniel Green
Music Director and Conductor . . . R. Stewart Powell
Accompanist . . . Joyce Hitchcock
Costumes and Stage Manager . . . Larry Picard
Costume Assistant . . . Ms. Lou Lemon
Set Painting . . . Erica Babad and Mark Renfro
Set Construction and Lighting . . . Nathaniel Green
To view pictures from the production click here.
Lower East Side of New York City. Time - spring of 1925.
SCENE ONE: Morning. The ANTONELLI kitchen can be as simple as possible. A few chairs and a table, and the suggestion of a stove, sink and icebox are sufficient as well as a tall flowerpot stand placed near the kitchen entrance. A translucent curtain of gauze can serve as a device to see into the bedroom through which CASPAR is seen shaving.
SCENE TWO: Later that day. The interior of ANTONELLI'S BARBERSHOP. Two barber chairs, a chair in the corner and the suggestion of a large wall mirror. A large Gramophone, typical of the period, is prominently displayed. A recording of ENRICO CARUSO singing "La donna è mobile" from GIUSEPPE VERDI'S 'RIGOLETTO' is necessary and should be available.
SCENE THREE: Evening, The ANTONELLI kitchen.
SCENE FOUR: Delancey Street, a few blocks from the WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE. The stage is divided between the storefronts of ROSSI'S WINES AND GROCERIES, WEINSTOCK'S FINE MEN'S CLOTHING, and the interior of ANTONELLI'S BARBERSHOP.
N.B. In most cases, simple suggestion - rather than elaborate sets and props - is fine, as long as such suggestions are clear to the audience and serve to further the action.
With the exception of the Nose, all the characters should be "larger than life" but not 'cartoonish.'
CASPAR ANTONELLI, a singing barber (tenor): An Italian immigrant who has a rather large and bulbous nose. While his assessment of his vocal abilities is inflated, CASPAR should not be seen as pompous but rather as a simple dreamer who only wants the "better things in life" for himself and his family.
JOSEPHINA, his wife (mezzo soprano): A simple, pious woman who is content with the way things are. She must not be seen to be "shrewish" in any way.
DOROTHY, their daughter (soprano): Born in America, she is a self-absorbed teenager, interested more in boys and the "latest fashions" than in her family or schoolwork.
FRANK ROSSI, Caspar's assistant, son of CARLO ROSSI (tenor): Comically simple-minded, naïve, and clumsy. Despite his unrequited love for DOROTHY, he remains hopeful she will one day see him as "the man I really am."
CARLO ROSSI, a wine and grocery merchant (baritone): An Italian immigrant and a mischievous man of no principles whose machinations are comic rather than malevolent.
SEYMOUR WEINSTOCK, a merchant of fine men's clothing (bass-baritone): A Jewish Immigrant from Eastern Europe. Very opinionated yet witless.
MAESTRO PASTA PASQUALE, a representative of the Metropolitan Opera House (baritone): Fashionably dressed, pompous and overblown to a fault.
NOSE, a speaking role: A typical 'nose.'
The action should be continuous with as little time taken between scenes as possible. A curtain would ideal, but in its absence, a blackout between scenes is sufficient.
Inspired by Nikolai Gogol's short story The Nose - in which the main character's nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own - ANTONELL'S NOSE is about an immigrant Italian barber who suffers a similar fate.
Scene one opens with CASPAR ANTONELLI vocalizing as he shaves. Josephina, his wife, pleads with him to hurry to breakfast so he won't be late opening the barbershop he runs with his assistant, FRANK ROSSI. CASPAR has the strange notion that his large, protuberant nose is the reason for his vocal prowess, and that were something to happen to it, his abilities would be diminished. Further, there is a rumor flying around the neighborhood that "a very important person" from the Metropolitan Opera House has been asking around about the "barber with the voice."
His wife JOSEPHINA and teenaged daughter DOROTHY both know that CASPAR is delusional about his singing abilities, but JOSEPHINA'S doubts are tempered by her love for CASPAR, while DOROTHY treats her father disrespectfully in this regard.
FRANK, in love with DOROTHY despite her repeated rejections of his advances, remains undeterred even though she sees him as a "clumsy fool" with no chances of advancement and success in life. Her interest is in Alberto Fopanetti, a more sophisticated neighborhood troublemaker and "numbers runner." JOSEPHINA is distressed and strongly disapproves of this friendship, while CASPAR, on the other hand, is too wrapped up in his own dreams of an opera career and sees it as "only a phase with the young. She'll get over it," he tells JOSEPHINA.
In her aria/duet with FRANK, "Glittering Baubles," DOROTHY sings of the wonderful new life she plans when she escapes her life as the daughter of a poor immigrant family. As she does so, FRANK, coming to fetch CASPAR, appears at the kitchen door. Unseen, he watches and listens longingly as DOROTHY sings about her dreams for the good life. Unbeknownst to DOROTHY, he joins in by declaring his love for her and asks "Why not me?" As they each sing the words "What more could a modern girl want?" each is referring to entirely different things: she to her laundry list of desires, and he simply to himself. The duet ends when FRANK, ever clumsy, trips over the flowerpot stand, causing the flowerpot to break on the kitchen floor, revealing his presence to a startled and annoyed DOROTHY. Knowing FRANK'S proclivity for clumsiness, JOSEPHINA exclaims from the bedroom "Is that you, Frank?"
When FRANK lets slip that "a very important looking person" stopped by the shop earlier that morning asking about the "barber with the voice," JOSEPHINA informs FRANK that this is only a rumor initiated by his father, CARLO ROSSI as a practical joke, and strongly insists that he not "dare breathe a word of this to Caspar." Nevertheless, we are led to believe there may be some truth to the story because someone actually did inquire that morning about CASPAR. !" As he and FRANK leave for the shop full of hope, CASPAR exuberantly exclaims "this is gonna be my day!" The scene ends with JOSEPHINA'S aria "Wisdom," in which she pleads with God for some insight on how to handle the situation.
The scene opens with CASPAR giving SEYMOUR WEINSTOCK a haircut of very questionable quality while a recording of Enrico Caruso singing "La donna è mobile" plays on the gramophone. When SEYMOUR complains saying, "Caruso is okay, but I don't like opera," CASPAR asks FRANK to turn off the gramophone. In so doing, he accidentally drops the record and breaks it. CASPAR continues to regale SEYMOUR about his singing prowess and how he plans to audition for the Metropolitan Opera House. SEYMOUR thinks the idea is "rubbish, rubbish, rubbish!" and prepares to offer CASPAR some advice when CASPAR launches into the trio "I Am Caspar Antonelli," soon joined by SEYMOUR and FRANK. By the end of the trio, all are in agreement, CASPAR will one day sing "...Verdi and Puccini at the Metropolitan!"
CARLO ROSSI, coming in for a shave, enters after overhearing the trio from outside. Happy to see his "little joke," is working so well, he smugly exclaims, "Bravo, bravo! So when is the debut?" Once again, FRANK lets slip about the early morning visitor, this time in CASPAR'S presence. As evidence, he presents the visitor's calling card, which reads: "Maestro Pasta Pasquale, Metropolitan Opera House." Being the opportunist that he is, CARLO quickly joins the others in support of CASPAR'S dream, although he is somewhat puzzled about how the joke is apparently on him instead of CASPAR. Could it be there really is someone from the Metropolitan Opera House looking to audition CASPAR?
CASPAR is now agitated and tries to throw everyone out so he can vocalize, but SEYMOUR insists 'the 'great' Caspar Antonelli to finish the job," and CARLO insists on getting his shave. With "no time for that," the jobs fall to FRANK.
As CASPAR and SEYMOUR argue back and forth, CARLO remarks aside how "someone should write an opera about this." Finally, SEYMOUR leaves in a huff, his hair horribly mangled, leaving FRANK to shave CARLO.
Anxious for FRANK to finish, CASPAR grabs the razor from FRANK. CARLO, with his face half lathered, CARLO decides this might not be a good idea and leads FRANK home saying, "I have a few words for you!" The scene ends with CASPAR extolling the virtues of his great singing voice.
It is dinnertime and CASPAR is more than an hour late when he tries to sneak into the bedroom covering his face with his hat. It is quickly discovered that he has lost his nose when a "great gust of wind came along and blew it offrolled to the river and jumped in." JOSEPHINA is hopeful that "this could be the answer to my prayers."
FRANK comes to the door and tells the family that "people are already out there looking for it." JOSEPHINA asks FRANK to join the search: "If anyone can find it, you can." DOROTHY, on the other hand, derides the idea by insulting FRANK one last time. FRANK sings his aria "I Won't Take it Anymore!" in which he vows to change from a meek, shy boy into a confident man.
Startled by this transformation, JOSEPHINA exclaims, "Lord, such miracles. Couldn't they come just one at a time?" Even DOROTHY is impressed exclaiming, "How exciting, Mama!" FRANK, now emboldened further by his success at expressing himself so forcefully, challenges DOROTHY to "come to the dance on Saturday night" if he finds CASPAR'S nose otherwise, "you may treat me any way you wish." She takes him up on his challenge and FRANK goes off to look for CASPAR'S nose. This time he stops short of the flowerpot he is always knocking over and calmly says, "Not this time, my friend."
Three days later and no news yet from FRANK on the whereabouts of his nose, a despondent CASPAR sings of the demise of his "opera career." CARLO regrets his "little joke" as not being a "good idea," but quickly realizes his son is also missing. With hope fading fast, SEYMOUR suggests he and CARLO close their shops and join in the search. They, along with JOSEPHINA and DOROTHY sing a quartet about the worsening situation. Charges and countercharges fly as CARLO blames CASPAR for losing his son. DOROTHY tells CARLO to "pipe down and stop pointing fingers. He's doing this for me!" SEYMOUR suggests, "You have to admit, Carlo, Frank is doing a very brave thing." However, CARLO is adamant, believing FRANK to be "a half-wit and stupido." JOSEPHINA chimes in, challenging CARLO to "either do something or shut up."
This scene of recrimination is abruptly interrupted by the sounds of a scuffle offstage. All are dumbstruck as FRANK enters with the NOSE tied to a rope. CASPAR is angry at the NOSE and demands to know where it has been, but it will not speak to him. FRANK tells the assembly he "found it hiding under the bridge, soaked to the bone." Deriding CASPAR for thinking "a nose can speak," SEYMOUR is stopped in his tracks when the NOSE says softly, "Scusi, signore" to the utter astonishment of the crowd. With some strong prodding from CASPAR, the NOSE explains how it didn't mean to cause any trouble, but when it saw a chance to find a new face because "I wasn't getting anywhere on yours," it took advantage of the situation. The NOSE explains further that it, too, wanted an opera career, but found out the "very important person" was only a rumor started by CARLO. CASPAR is angry at CARLO but forgives him saying, "It doesn't matter anymore." He congratulates FRANK on his heroics.
As the crowd exhorts "Three cheers for Frank! the regal figure of MAESTRO PASTA PASQUALE from the Metropolitan Opera House appears to the astonished crowd asking, "Which one of you is Caspar Antonelli?" He explains his visit is the result of having heard a rumor that CASPAR has "a very fine voce." CASPAR explains that accounts of his singing voice are simply that, rumor. PASQUALE spies the NOSE and asks if it can sing. It replies, "Yes," upon which PASQUALE invites the NOSE to audition the next morning and ushers it off to have a little talk.
CARLO apologizes to CASPAR and FRANK as both he and SEYMOUR rush for a seat in the barbershop, CARLO for a shave, and SEYMOUR to have his haircut 'repaired.' CASPAR explains the valuable lesson he has learned from his seeming misfortune saying, "I have found where my treasures REALLY lie: Right here under my very own nose."
Brooklyn, New York, January 1987
(rev. Tucson, April 2007)