There are comebacks and comebacks: the rather sad, end-of-the-pier affair, because money’s run out and there’s alimony to pay; the small cameo ‘because I miss the applause’; and Alessandra Ferri.
Ferri’s various comeback projects are classy with a piece being created for her by Martha Clarke based on Colette’s novel Cherì with ABT’s Herman Cornejo, a new ballet about Eleonora Duse by John Neumeier at La Scala, and The Piano Upstairs, the first venture, which opens at the Spoleto Festival on 28 June.
For Spoleto she’s assembled an impressive creative team. The story was her own idea, but John Weidman gave it structure, and dialogue. He is a musical theatre veteran having written books for Stephen Sondheim (Pacific Overtures, Assassins, Road Show), Susan Stroman (Contact, Happiness) and Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire (Take Flight, Big).
The Piano Upstairs is the story of the collapse of a marriage described by the husband and by the wife. She recounts her version in dance, he recounts his version in a series of monologues. The stakes are raised until the story is no longer about the survival of a marriage, but about the survival of the husband and wife themselves.
The husband is played by Boyd Gaines who recently played on Broadway and the West End in Driving Miss Daisy with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave, and with Patti LuPone in Gypsy for which he received his fourth Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award Nomination.
Although the realisation of this project coincides with the real life break-up of Ferri’s marriage with photographer Fabrizio Ferri (no relation, if you see what I mean), it has been in the pipeline for a while, as she explained to Il Corriere della Sera:
For some time I’ve had the idea of a show developing on two different levels of language: dance and words. This is the story, unrealistic, of a couple having problems, unable to communicate: a husband, played by Gaines, trapped within his own disguise and a wife that will leave him, saving him from the deceitfulness in which he lives.
My role is multi-faceted: at times I will be the wife, at times the soul of this man incapable of loving, while the three dancers are the personification of the liberating music released from a mysterious piano which is upstairs. We will dance to music by Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, and three compositions written for me by Fabrizio Ferri.
Alessandra Ferri herself is tackling the choreography, a first in her career, and will dance alongside three dancers: Attila Csiki (Lar Lubovitch Dance Company), Stephen Hanna (New York City Ballet, and the older Billy Elliot in the original Broadway cast) and Andrea Volpintesta (Teatro alla Scala).
The visuals are being created by Oscar-winning designer Gianni Quaranta who was the production designer for A Room with a View, Jesus of Nazareth and Farinelli, and has designed operas for the most important houses in the world. He is joined by Luisa Spinatelli, ballet costume designer par excellence, who has designed for La Scala, the Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and the Bolshoi companies. To light it all is Daniele Nannuzzi, a film and theatre lighting designer who, in 2011 in St Petersburg, together with choreographer Boris Eifman, made the film versions of the ballets Anna Karenina and Onegin.
Classy Alessandra, classy.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.