May 6 2000, The LEGO opera

Saturday, May 6 2000, some of us (Mario Ferrari, Paolo Masetti & Guido Truffelli) had the great pleasure to be present at the premiÚre of the LEGO Opera, on stage at Teatro Nuovo in Verona, Italy.

The opera, that the authors define a "chamber opera", tells the story of the LEGO factory and most of all of the LEGO idea.

The Lego Company officialy sponsored the event, and some directors and managers from the company attended the premiÚre.

Abstract of the press release (our translation from Italian)

The Lego chamber opera makes its debut in Verona

Written by Nicola Campogrande on a libretto by Dario Voltolini, the Lego chamber opera makes its debut in Verona on Saturday May 6.


Lego tells the story of the famous Danish factory. But the opera itself is a large play where the stage becomes animated with constructions, which tells of a plastic world that from 1932 on grew in parallel to the real world.

Some questions to Nicola Campogrande:

Q: How was the idea born, why Lego? A: When I was seven we moved to a new house. The metal box where I stored my Lego got lost, and this has been a (small) shock for me. In the following years, many times I've been about to ask my parents for some new Lego, but I felt grown-up and every time gave up. Under the pretext of this opera now I've bought some, and I live better :) And the work of a composer is to build, to assemble, to plug; so when Dario and I had been entrusted with this task by the Cidim committee, we were thinking about the subject and the structure the opera should have had. At some point he said "Let's call it Lego" and I answered "More: let's tell the Lego story". Five minutes later I was browsing searching for info.

Q: What are the personnell and the structure of the opera? A: On our Lego stage there are a soprano, an actress, a (male) pop singer, a vocal trio and a jazz trio (piano, contrabass and drums); in the orchestra pit there's a 14 elements ensemble that features many wind and percussion instruments. The opera has been divided into 24 bricks, and take place on different levels. There's the story of the Lego factory and the Lego world, a melologue in six parts that from 1932 arrives to 1961, the year of the invention of the wheel in the universe up to then static of the Lego bricks. There's a short history of the jazz that runs in parallel, from swing to cool to mainstream. And then there are plays, constuctions that come to life on the stage and are relatetd to the Lego buildings (some of them are titled Tunnel 33, Airport, Garage, From the window of my building). They are meditations, digressions, observations about assembling and disassembling, about building and travelling, about coloring and counting. They're singed scenes, sometime only played, all of them very short because the rhythm of the opera is always very fast. The last scene is named "In the box" and everything gets settled so we're ready to start the next performance.


Our impressions

As the author said, the opera was structured in 24 scenes called "bricks". In the very front part of the stage there was the actress, surrounded everywhere by bricks. There where both standard size bricks and super giant 2x2 and 2x4 bricks (the 2x4 were roughly 10x20in). The actress started the first "brick" of the opera telling the beginning of the story of the Lego factory in 1932, and from then on she sometimes had her turn again, another "brick", and continued the story, supported by a soft background from the orchestra. While not on her turn, she was playing with the bricks on the stage, building amazing structures.

The main part of the stage featured a stair right in the middle, with the orchestra split on the two sides. The jazz trio was located on the highest part of the stage, rear left. All the performers usually came in from rear right and came down the stairs to the front stage, just before the bricks area.

The jazz trio started just after the first actress playing some classic style jazz. From then on they had their own "bricks" from time to time, always playing original compositions in the jazz style of the period the story was in.

The soprano sang pretty original but classic opera-styled parts. But the lyrics...:-) (see below)

The vocal trio, well they where so good, performed singing and dancing in the style of the best Broadway musicals.

The pop singer ranged from Sinatra to Elvis styled songs.

The orchestra supported the soprano, the actress, the vocal trio and the pop singer, and play some music only bricks. The orchestra personnell wore plastic hats that were actually giant Lego studs, alternating different colors.

The lyrics of all the songs where simply incredible. Filled with puns, double meanings, chained words, references to the Lego world in a very original way. They talked of trains, airports, buildings etc. Sometime you realized just at the very end of the text it was describing a Lego thing, like for the train that you discover is blue with red wheels.

What we found mostly amazing were the parallel threads that happened on the background of the leading part. Some examples: while the actress told of the first fire in the factory, the bass player of the jazz trio was shaking red fabric to represent fire. While the vocal trio was singing supported by the jazz trio, the orchestra personnell were swapping their Lego hats, or the pop singer was showing muscles body-builder style. And many many other funny things. Even the conductor danced with his score holder :-)

A great experience. When the opera finished we all thought it had been too short.

For more info (in Italian) follow this link.

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