Superb Opera Singer tell of the shocking death of Antonio Giglies on stage in the Tragic Finale of Madame Butterfly, and discusses the unjust death of Carmen
Marianna Ginger, the Superb Opera Singer, welcome back to The Sewers.
Hello, thank you.
I’d like to thank you for agreeing to this alterview, it’s been nearly two months that you’ve been refusing to make a public announcement.
Yes, it was very difficult time for me.
Ever since the Madame B-fly finale.
Yes. I was feeling very bad and then I became ill so I stayed in Paris for one more week. I did not want to stay but the feeling was very bad.
Yes, of course, it was not a good finale.
No, I still have a lot of emotion when I think about it. I do not know how to talk about this.
Have you sought help since the, uhm, incident?
This is very private, very personal question, this is not appropriate.
Right, so sorry. Please, if you may, try and talk us through that dreadful night.
I was of course very excited, very much, and also very, how do you say, tranquile at the same time. Because stage for me is, I say this again, it is sanctuary, it is still for me a sanctuary. I saw Antonio dans les coulisses, we had smiles, it was very shortly before the beginning.
That’s Antonio Giglies, who played the character of Pinkerton.
Yes. We had smiles, the smiles without words, because you say very little before your leg touch on the stage, but I remember the smiles when the music started. I was of course very excited, thinking about the goodbye, the farewell, oh but I did not know, I did not know…
This must be very difficult for you.
Yes, it is. The first act was very good, I felt that the finale was good. Behind the stage I wanted toujours to be alone. Especially on a night like this night. I need to be inside myself, quiet inside myself, sometimes it feels to me that if I talk a word that does not belong to the opera I will forget at once the libretto, I will forget the character. So I search to be alone and everyone they know this. So I did not talk, I saw Antonio but I did not talk. And the second act was of course very emotional, also the second part of it, it was like there is no more time, there was only the time of the stage. The time outside of time. I was very… emotional… it was very grandiose…
I already have in my mind the knife scene, I had fears and worries about it, it is delicate, very delicate. I have little time in the back stage to make myself ready for this. I was listening, half listening and not listening to the singing… I hear Antonio singing the Remords… he sang “Addio fiorito asil di letizia e d’amor“. Then in the sudden he stopped singing… I was half not listening but when he stopped singing I heard it very loud, that he is not singing, and there was only the music, and there was some, how do you say, some talking, very loud, the music stopped, and then the yelling, oh… oh…
Oh how terrible, how awful.
I do not know why, I ran there, but they already bring him in and the curtain is falling and the, how do you say, the light of the stage, the light of the stage was in the sudden the regular light, the back of the stage light, they were calling the ambulance…
What a disaster, this is so horrible.
It was a heart attack, it is so terrible, it is not possible to believe… one second a man is singing, the other second he is not alive anymore!
He was hospitalized for about 10 hours before he had passed. But of course, this is so hard to grasp, just terrible.
I am hearing the yelling of the people and the distant sound of the crowd, talking, moving, trying to understand. But you cannot understand. This is something that you cannot understand. A very young man! A very tall man! so strong and smiling, toujours! All the time before the finale I talk and I talk about the goodbye, the farewell, but for this farewell I was not ready!
This is so, so shocking, you must be devastated.
I knew Antonio for many years. In 2012 we were in Roma, I was there before him, he took on the role of Scarpia…“O Scarpia, avanti a Dio!” how terrible…
That’s from Tosca of course. Tosca kills Scarpia, right?
Oh… oh… why do I remember this now?
Is this too much for you right now?
No, no, I want to say, Antonio was Scarpia extraordinaire. An amazing actor, amazing singer. Taking the art very seriously. He had respect for everyone and never a snob. Such a passionate actor. He had no, how do you say, limites.
You said in a recent interview, when you mentioned your prior collaboration in Tosca, that your favourite part of Tosca was stabbing Scarpia to death.
We had many jokes about that, yes. It is very macabre, no? Yes, very much so, very much so. Oh Antonio, he will be remembered for ever. He has two sons, two sons. Tragique.
Your finale of Madame B-fly never came to an end.
No, of course, and it never will.
This was the only Madame B-fly performance which did not end with the heroine’s death. Your Madame actually never died.
Oh. That, yes, that is very interesting.
Speaking purely opera-wise, isn’t that a truly radical take on the Madame, that Pinkerton dies and she lives?
Yes, when I was in the FOG [Fringe Opera Group] in 2013, we had what they called the alternative opera season, where the opera Heldinnen do not die. That of course does not have to mean that the man should die.
But in Madame B-fly he pretty much has to die if she’s to live.
The FOG had two ideas for that when I was there. One, that she should kill her child, but then many said that she would have to die as well –
And two, that she should kill Kate, the wife of Pinkerton. I did not like both options, because none of them is direct. I think that killing the child is another way of killing herself, and killing Kate is another way of killing Pinkerton. But killing him is not something the Madame could do, this is not the character. This would be not understanding the character. So I think that she must kill herself. But this is something that is special to the Madame.
Which option did the FOG go with eventually?
Oh, I was not there anymore when they did this, they decided that the Madame kills the child, and the child is wrapped in United States flag. There was a scandal.
But the FOG of course love scandal.
As do you –
Carmen, for example, she does not have to die. And also, it is not her character to die, to be killed, it is very, of course, not feminist.
Are you a feminist?
You are again wanting the headlines. I am an artist.
Are you a feminist artist?
Please, please –
What’s so difficult about this question?
Why do you ask this in the context of a man who died? Is that feminist?
That’s not at all the context. I’m assuming you’re familiar with gender theory critique of popular operas. The lead female character always dies or at the least, always loses. It’s as if the female voice, which is absolutely radicalized in opera, has to be silenced one way or another.
Yes, I am familiar with this interpretation, but I believe that every character is unique. Just like I said, Carmen is not a character that should die. I don’t believe in this. But the Madame without a doubt should.
Should Tosca die?
Yes, she truly wants to.
What about Violetta from La-Traviata?
I have no appreciation for this character. Last year the FOG turned her into a leader of a revolution against the rich and had her killed by policemen. That was not a successful performance, because the character is not good.
Why don’t you like this character?
It is not that I do not like, it is that I do not understand. It is not in my heart. I do not understand what life she wants, and what life she does not want. And I believe that her death of illness is, how do you say, is a moral judgment of her desire to be sempre libera, that is what kills her.
That’s a proper feminist interpretation.
You can call it as you wish to call it.
What would you say is an appropriate alternative ending for her?
That she does not fall in love. That she is like Carmen. Because she wants to be Carmen, but she does not know how.
But she precedes Carmen.
It does not matter. The chronology of the operas does not matter. The relations between characters is always in the context of present time and all the characters that are present in the present time.
That’s very insightful.
Oh thank you, I thank you.
So do you suppose Carmen has never fallen in love?
Of course not! Of course not!
You don’t suppose so or you’re saying she’s never fallen in love?
Both! Of course I do not suppose so, and of course she never falls in love. Not in what the opera sees as falling in love. Carmen falls in love but she falls out of love. Like all people. She falls in love with one and then with the other, like all people. That is why she is such a profond character. That is why she is killed by José. That is how Violetta would wish to die.
But Violette isn’t as ‘femme fatale’ as Carmen –
Excuse me, no, no, I will not accept this. Carmen is not femme fatale, José is the fatale, and that is why it is all wrong. She should be femme fatale, she should kill him, that will make her femme fatale, but she is not.
You’re very passionate about this –
Because how can you say that a woman who was killed is femme fatale?
That’s so true –
You can say this only if you think that death is the most appropriate punishment of her –
A moral judgment, as you said –
Yes, this is very upsetting to me. We talked a lot about death. Yes, Antonio would love this conversation. We could talk like this for many hours. But sometimes death become real, and you want to talk about it less. Because there is very little to say about real death. You cannot change it or invent alternatives to it.
Right, of course. So horrible. Any plans for the near future?
I do not want to think about this or discuss this now. But I will not be off the stage for a long time. I need to come back there because it will be bad for me to stay away for too long.
Right, good. I hope you’ll get all the rest you need and get better.
Thank you, I thank you.
We thank you and congratulate you and adore you, Marianna Ginger.
Thank you, thank you.