In his latest movie "To Rome With Love," Woody Allen plays Jerry, a retired music executive and former opera director who travels to Italy to meet his daughter's fiancé. Upon his arrival in the Eternal City, Jerry encounters his future son-in-law's father, an undertaker who happens to have a perfect operatic voice — but only when he's singing in the shower.
The chance discovery precipitates a series of comic set pieces, and prompts Jerry to rediscover his passion for the operatic art form.
Over the weekend, "To Rome With Love" expanded to 806 screens (up from 29) and earned $3.5 million at the box office.
The opera episode in the film — which features a handful of parallel stories — should have special resonance for classical-music fans in Los Angeles who had a chance to experience Allen's first opera production in 2008. The Oscar-winning filmmaker staged "Gianni Schicchi," the third part of Puccini's "Il Trittico," for L.A. Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to critical acclaim.
Allen's production of "Gianni Schicchi" was an homage to Italian comedy films of the 1950s, such as "Big Deal on Madonna Street." The set and costumes evoked a black-and-white movie, and the singers performed in a broadly comical style.
The staging, which was designed by frequent Allen collaborator Santo Loquasto, featured a projected opening credit sequence using the filmmaker's signature font type. Following the run in L.A., Allen's production traveled to the Spoleto Festival in Italy in 2009.
Allen's opera was a crowd-pleaser. In the movie, Jerry's tastes run more avant-garde and serve as the butt of a few jokes. His wife (Judy Davis) reminds him that he once staged "Rigoletto" with all the performers dressed as white mice. The character also directed a "Tosca" set entirely in a phone booth.
"To Rome With Love" uses a real opera singer to play the role of the vocally talented undertaker — tenor Fabio Armiliato, who performs several Italian arias on the soundtrack including "Nessun Dorma" from "Turandot."
The movie's climax features a performance of "Pagliacci." In case you're wondering where Allen filmed the scene, Architectural Digest reports that it was shot at the Teatro Argentina, an 18th century opera house that is one of the oldest theaters in Rome.