2005 Regional Championships - Rienzi: The Blaggers Guide

25-Feb-2005

4BR gives you the lowdown on Wagner's opera Rienzi. It's all togas and trouble really.


richard wagnerJust in case you are down the pub and you want to regale to those about you, your intimate knowledge of Wagner and his overture. If you like men in togas, the incesscent chanting of that old male voice choir favourite, 'The Roman War Song', you never know, there may be someone who will be completely bowled over by your grasp of the intricacies of Rome in the fourteenth century and old boys attempts to make it all come back to life over four hundred years later in a nineteenth century musical. Then again….

Rienzi, the last of the Tribunes

The five act Opera is set in Rome in the fourteenth century against a backdrop when the Pope has fled. This in no way should resemble the famous quip of Harold Steptoe in the sit-com ‘Steptoe and Son' in the early 1970's when faced with the newspaper headline ‘King Zog Flees' quips – "Not ‘ere in this dirty house he didn't. More like, King sized fleas!" 

The Pontiff in fact has left things in a pretty awful state, leaving the two leading families of the eternal city, the Orsini and the Colonna, to fight it out to see who picks up the remaining bragging rights.

As always when these things occur, rioting breaks out and Paolo Orsini tries to kidnap Irene, the sister of our eponymous hero, the Roman Tribune, Rienzi. (A Tribune by the way was a public leader of sorts in the City – a latter day Ken Livingstone - not the name of the local newspaper) She is saved by Adriano Colonna, and only when Rienzi wades in with his henchmen is order restored, and he closes the gates of Rome (one out, all out it seems) and the Cardinal offers to support Rienzi in his quest to break the power of the warring noble families and make the city as peaceful as Milton Keynes on a wet Thursday night.   Rienzi being a bit of a boy with words, rather then take the task on all himself, persuades the population of Rome to get themselves ready for an even bigger fight in order for him to gain power.

Act 2 and things are all rosy in the garden. Rienzi returns the city to peace, early closing on Thursdays and no messing about outside the local Kebab shops, whilst it emerges that Irene and Adriano have been getting it together in more than just a holding hands sort of way. Things are looking fine and dandy – but as this would mean the whole story being over in half an hour, the sub plot emerges that the two families of the lovers themselves decide to gang up on Rienzi and send him packing – even though up until now he has been a pretty decent, trust me, sort of guy.

Act 3 then starts with Adriano overhearing his family in ‘Cosa Nostra' mood decide to place a horses head in Rienzi's bed and feed him to the fishes in the Tiber – or something like that anyway.  Adriano being a decent chappie, decides to tell Rienzi of the plan but as Rienzi has become a bit power mad himself, he ignores the problems and decides a bit like Napoleon a few hundred years later to declare himself ‘Peoples Emperor'.

It seems like a popular thing to do, as there is no election on the horizon, unemployment is low and house prices in Rome have been going up steadily. Just when Rienzi is about to put the crown on his noggin though, the conspirators try their best to stab him in the back of his nice new toga. Rienzi is in a good mood, and decides to pardon the conspirators, whilst Adriano (remember him?) prays for reconciliation between the two families. Unfortunately, no one is listening and just like a Saturday night in your local rugby club, there is too much beer, too many boys with over greased hair, Calvin Kline shirts and small brains and a fight breaks out where both Colonna and Orsini are killed.

Now it gets a bit complicated in Act 4.

Adriano, who used to be Rienzi's best mate and confident, now decides to blame it all on him and vows to avenge his Dad's death by popping off Rienzi himself. Such as been the killing spree (the opera makes Grand Theft Auto look like a walk in the park) a new bunch of even nastier, greasier Nobles plot to kill Rienzi off this time as well.

The economy has gone a bit flat, the price of the a two up two down semi in a nice part of Rome has gone through the roof and locals cannot afford to buy one, whilst the local footy clubs are in relegation trouble. Things then are not looking good. With this news, so is Rienzi and all the local support for him disappears in a flash with shouts of –Rienzi out! – or whatever it was in Latin.   He is excommunicated by the Church, loses his flash chariot and ends up signing on at the local dole office. Only his sister Irene stands by him.

However, instead of a triumphant return like Alex Huricane Higgins winning his second world snooker championship in the final Act 5, it becomes more like Howard Kendall's second spell in charge with Everton at Goodison Park – a complete disaster for all concerned.

The people start scrapping again, the town is set on fire, and the tower in which Rienzi and poor old Irene are holed up in  (she doesn't have much luck all through the opera does she) burns and falls to the ground, killing both Rienzi and his sister and just by coincidence and as a bit of retribution, falling and squashing Adriano in the process.

With that it all ends and the family entertainment comes to a close, the curtain drops and everyone heads for the fish and chip shop. They just don't make ‘em like that anymore.

Iwan Fox

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