Tuesday, June 20, 2006

local color.


So once in a while I go to this thing called Opera Cabaret. It's neither opera nor cabaret, but it explains local color in my hometown better than anything else I can think of. First, you've got to know that my hometown has a LOT of people of Italian descent in it. (This results in fantastic, small restaurants and great smells emanating from the North Side, but it also results in things like opera cabaret and grape arbors in the front yard.)

I'm not slamming Opera Cabaret. It's actually quite special, and completely amusing if you approach it right.

First, you have to understand the charm that is Giorgio. He is the only person pictured in this set of photos, and I don't really know how to describe him. He sounds as funny as he looks. He's usually seen around town in a mesh t-shirt (black), black cut-off shorts, purple socks, black velcro sneakers, and a scarf around his neck. He's strangely thin with a really exaggerated hunched back and paunchy abdomen. But a sweet man, nonetheless, and he's the force behind Opera Cabaret.

His sisters (two extremely short Italian women who tell corny jokes) are the helpers for the show. They come around to your table and pass out chewy, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn that is impossible to digest - much less masticate. It tastes awful, but it too is a Cabaret experience.

Oh, a Corino girls joke?
Q: what do you use frozen band-aids for?
A: cold cuts!

But the girls are great.
On to the music. Giorgio gets local people to come sing songs for the cabaret (no pay involved), and it's known as Una Serata di Gioia - an evening of joy. They usually sing a few opera songs and/or musical theater numbers. And Giorgio sings too.

It used to be the most hilarious thing in the world to go to OC, because the singing was legendarily awful. Vibratos wider than the naked eye could perceive, and some really crazy showmanship. The pianist would actually get up and yell at the performers if they made a mistake back in the day. Now one of the local performers with the Tri Cities Opera has taken over artistic directorship, and it's actually getting pretty good musically. In one way, an improvement. In another way, a disappointment, because I seriously think the *bad* singing was part of its essence.

Three of my favorites were Giorgio, this soprano named Mary Jo, and this guy Dick. Giorgio is explained by his pictures. Mary Jo... defies explanation. She acted like such a diva, but her singing was so awful that most people laughed at her constantly. She never realized it, and just chalked it up to her superior stage presence. She was terrible (didn't perform this past time). Dick is a man who sings Irish ditties who gets more and more soused as the night goes on.

Anyway - here are some pictures from the night. The sign on the table is indeed authentic. Can anyone translate? I'd love to know what it actually says.

O Sole Mio... la la la la Posted by Picasa