Italian Opera Performed in Native American Dialect

Italian Opera Performed in Native American Dialect

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Carole Mikita ReportingCowboys, Indians, an angry sheriff, the saloon keeper with a heart of gold--and they sing in Italian. The Utah Symphony and Opera call this one the original spaghetti Western with a new twist.

For the first time ever, an opera composed by Italian Giacomo Puccini will have language he never wrote, the Native American roles are sung, here in Salt Lake City, in Maidu dialect. The idea for the update came from the man in the orchestra pit, Maestro Anton Coppola.

Maestro Anton Coppola: "I was always dissatisfied with the fact that here were these two Indians, speaking to one another. They are man and wife practically, speaking in an Italian translation of Pig English."

So, the maestro called upon his famous nephew, by the name of Francis Ford Coppola. He has a librarian and that librarian found the maestro a translator.

Leah Wool, 'The Girl of the Golden West': "It's kind of nice that when the maestro realized that when these two were speaking to each other, they sound educated and they would speak their language beautifully to one other."

Opera singers are called upon to perform in a number of languages, but for Leah Wool and Steven Timoner a Native American dialect was a first.

Steven Timoner, "The Girl of the Golden West": "For me, it's kinda like doing Russian because I have no idea of Russian. So, I have to take each thing apart. I don't know how the grammar works. So it's like approaching a language you've never done before but the diction itself is like Italian."

Lori Phillips does sing Italian. She is the Girl of the Golden West, pleased to be working with the maestro. She recalls their first encounter.

Lori Phillips: “Maestro, we're going to be working together. He said, ‘Oh, I'm so happy about that. Is this your first time singing the Roleand?’ I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ ‘Good,’ he said, ‘Good, good. I like to teach it, I'll teach it to you."

So a famous American conductor and famous Italian composer combine to make music with a purely western theme.

"The Girl of the Golden West" opens at the Capitol Theatre Saturday and runs through March 21st.

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