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Saturday , January 23 2021

Coppola revels in ‘scary’ challenge – US film director prepares for premiere of first opera

Australian singer Iggy Azalea performs during the World Music Festival ‘Mawazine’ in Rabat on May 21. (AFP)
Australian singer Iggy Azalea performs during the World Music Festival ‘Mawazine’ in Rabat on May 21. (AFP)

ROME, May 22, (AFP): Sofia Coppola says she is loving the “scary” challenge of directing an opera for the first time as she prepares for the premiere of her production of “La Traviata” in Rome next week.

The American film director has teamed up with Nathan Crowley, the British production designer behind the Batman trilogy, for a new production of the classic Italian opera with the costumes designed by fashion’s king of glamour, the veteran designer Valentino.

“I’ve really enjoyed my first experience in the theatre,” Coppola, 45, told a press conference on Friday ahead of Tuesday’s opening of the latest interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s romantic tragedy at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

Advance ticket sales have already broken all records at the theatre, adding to Coppola’s first-night trepidation.

“I didn’t really know what to expect and I never could have had the courage to direct an opera but then Valentino and (the designer’s artistic collaborator) Mr (Giancarlo) Giammetti asked me,” she said.

“I thought what an incredible experience to be able to work in the Rome opera house with the beautiful costumes and the team here so that motivated me to take a chance and do something that was scary for me and very unfamiliar.”

The daughter of Godfather director Francis Coppola, Sofia said coming back to the land of her ancestors had also been very special.

“My father’s family is very involved,” she said. “There are a lot of musicians, and my great uncle has conducted La Traviata so he sat down and spoke to me a lot about La Traviata so I felt lucky to have this culture in my family.

“And growing up my father always loved opera and played opera and took us to some opera, and he was very proud, he explained the other day that I am a distant cousin of (celebrated conductor) Riccardo Muti, so he was very proud about that.”

Coppola, who won an Academy award for “Lost in Translation”, has joined forces with production designer Crowley, who was nominated for an Oscar for “The Dark Knight” as well as “Interstellar” and “The Prestige”.

Valentino, best known for dressing the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Keira Knightley, said he had wanted to work with Coppola after watching her historical costume drama “Marie Antoinette.”

“La Traviata has bewitched me since I was a boy for its music, the story, Verdi’s score and the positioning of the actors on the stage,” the designer said.

“I retired to my studio and I have to be honest, I created the four costumes for (lead character) Violetta in an hour and a half and sent them almost immediately.

“It’s so romantic, the singers are so good, so much goes into the staging of the scenes, that they (operas) are much more important than rock concerts,” he said.

Traviata, based on an 1848 novel by Alexandre Dumas, tells the story of a courtesan who is wooed by a respectable young man, who persuades her to abandon her wild life only to run into opposition to the match from his father.

The strong pre-show sales will come as a huge boost for the Roman theatre after a series of damaging orchestra and chorus strikes over the past few years, fuelled by financial problems as Italy suffered its deepest recession since World War II.


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