We are workshopping Act One of this brand-new-only-partially-born opera by John Musto and Mark Campbell. If you were lucky enough to catch their Volpone in 2004 or 2007, you’ll not want to miss Inspector in 2010.
An Inspector from Rome is based on the timeless Russian comedy The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol. Even if you don’t know the Gogol play, you might have a good frame of reference if you’ve seen the movie Waiting for Guffman. The details vary, but the guts of the story are the same. Clueless folk in a small town are awaiting the arrival of a muckety-muck. The person they take to be the visiting dignitary (in this case, a government inspector) is an unsuspecting bystander. Misunderstandings, incongruities, and comedy ensue.
Today, Act One, Scene One.
The action has been moved from Gogol’s provincial Russia to the fictional Sicilian town of Santa Strozzetta. (strozzare; verb; to choke, strangle). The time is 1930, and the town is only beginning to hear about what Mussolini is doing in Rome. Facts are scarce, but vivid enough to strike fear in the heart of the Mayor when he receives news that an inspector from Rome will be visiting. (Perhaps incognito. Opera thrives on mistaken identity.)
The Mayor isn’t exactly beyond reproach.
So the books were a little cooked,
Some minor taxes overlooked…
Hmm… and I thought this was a period piece… Some things never go out of style.
In Scene One, the Mayor calls together his Board of Directors: the Director of Order, Director of the Church, Directress of Education, and Directress of the Hospital and Cemetery (an intriguing combination), exhorting them to make sure everything is on the “up and up” in preparation for the inspector.
Composer John Musto isn’t here yet, but that didn’t stop him from emailing me a revised page of the score this afternoon. He’ll be here all next week (with librettist Mark Campbell), and we’ll continue to experiment, tweak, sing, and laugh.