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Michael Schelle: THE GREAT SOAP OPERA

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Published on May 11, 2014

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THE GREAT SOAP OPERA (1987)
Chamber Opera in Five Scenes and Five Commercials
Story, Libretto and Music by Michael Schelle
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INDIANA OPERA THEATRE
Summer 1988
Michael Schelle, director / conductor

Scenes 1 - 4: morning, afternoon, evening of the same day
Scene 5: Three months later
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THE GREAT SOAP OPERA is a campy, twisted, sordid black humor tragicomic chamber opera send-up that blurs the lines of dramatic reality and cheap television commercials. SOAP is a trashy tale of madcap madness, murder and mayhem, mistaken identities and money, with an all-star cast.

Packed with pathetic characters (a bored / unhappy housewife, her cheating plastic surgeon husband, a mysterious mistress, a sexy / meddling next door neighbor, a double-talking used car salesman, an evil mailman, etc.) and a bevy of eccentric commercial spokespersons (toilet paper, floor wax, cat food, laundry detergent, used cars, etc.), THE GREAT SOAP OPERA fuses opposing worlds where the lives of the dramatic characters begin to intercept / fuse with the lives of the commercial spokespersons (and their products!!) - as things unravel and the story becomes dangerously complicated - with a cheating husband, a pregnant mistress, incest, mistaken identities, lascivious love triangles, Illegitimate children, tragic realizations, 'deus ex machina' voice over broadcasts, madness, murder and mayhem, not to mention a few surprises, audience participation / involvement ... and lots of theatrical blood packs.

As the madness progresses, the products (and their spokespersons) of the five commercials become more intertwined with the lives / dramatic actions of the singers. There is even interaction between the dramatic actors/singer and the conductor / musicians of the offstage chamber ensemble .. at one point, three musicians end up on stage (during the action), drinking coffee and serenading the troubled characters.

Throughout the entire opera, the Gambino's television is ON, and we (and they) are actually watching THEIR lives unfold in real life on stage AND on TV, simultaneously.

Cheating husband Dr. Anthony Gambino ultimately has to make the choice between Amy (mistress) and Bea (wife), just as all the commercials spokespersons have to choice between their products A (name brand) and B (bargain brand).

Scene V takes place three months after the 'fatal flaw' discovery. Anthony, confused and conflicted, has been seated in the chair for three months (and has grown a beard - because he's not been out of the chair!). The 'other woman' shows up, 8 months pregnant, all Hell breaks loose, Amy is shot (by mistake), and everything continues to collapse up to the 'tragic' death of Bea Gambino.

At the explosive conclusion of the opera, the hapless heroine Bea Gambino is dead, and covered in blood, but somehow manages temporarily resurrect herself to sing her tragic (and heartbreaking) final 'dead aria'. The 'life saving' product, that she has been waiting for the entire opera, finally arrives - but now it is too late.

The eclectic score covers a broad range of musical styles, and incorporates a few brief fractured and irreverent (but respectful!) references to the great operas of Puccini, Wagner, Leoncavallo, Gilbert & Sullivan, Alban Berg and Philip Glass.

The closing curtain calls are 'choreographed' according to specific instructions in the score, as are all interactive dramatic situations.

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