March 25, 2020

NBC Opera Company: Gian Carlo Menotti's Labyrinth

Since we seem to have some extra time on our hands nowadays, how about something truly confusing? This is an extremely rare color videotape of an NBC Opera Company presentation, in this case the world premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti's one-act opera Labyrinth, broadcast on March 3, 1963. Labyrinth is a highly allegorical story, dealing with the meaning of life; none of the characters have proper names, only titles ("The Bride," "The Groom," "The Spy"), and in a brief introduction at the beginning of the telecast, Menotti, after explaining the allegory to viewers, encourages them to forget what he's just said and simply enjoy the music.

Like many of Menotti's other televised operas, Labyrinth was commissioned by NBC; however, in this case Menotti took advantage of the medium (as opposed to The Medium) to incorporate several special effects into the performance, effects that would at the time have been impossible to duplicate in a stage production. (Rear projection might make it possible today.) As a result, this broadcast is the one and only performance of Labyrinth, and we have it right here.

The production is directed by Menotti himself, while NBC Opera stalwart Kirk Browning directs the television side. John Reardon plays The Groom, and Judith Raskin is The Bride; Herbert Grossman conducts members of the Symphony of the Air. The video was shared to YouTube by Menotti's adopted son, Francis.


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3 comments:

  1. The NBC operas/concerts were very popular. I remember many of them including the Bell Telephone Hour being on late Sunday afternoon. They apparently were popular but the popularity waned by the time 1963 arrived. As a small child from a musical family, I had some good memories ("Ahmal and the Night Visitors)but also bad ones, as the new ABC affiliate that came on the air in 1962 had Rocky and Bullwinkle at the same time....from an old public health administrator and Hill Street Blues fan, "Let's be safe out there..."

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    1. Since you mentioned BELL TELEPHONE HOUR, I remember seeing a fun, mostly cartoon, episode called "The Alphabet Conspiracy", which among other things broke down a person's hometown area based on how that person said certain words. This film was created around 1959, and I saw it in film form in school some 20 years later.

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    2. Gotta hate that counterprogramming, don't you? Stay safe to you too, my friend.

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