Rita, or to Love as Russians


Family Quarells with Pizza Cooking

Gaetano Donizzetti
Libretto by Gustav Vaez

Stage Director – Alexander Borodovski
Music Director – Viktoria Unguryanu
Set and Costume Designers –  Tatiana Tulubieva
Playing time – 50 minutes
Premiere – March 28, 2006

Italy gave the world two great inventions, these are pizza and opera. It's strange, but through their long history, they have been existing separately. Their unforgettable meeting takes place in Opera Cafe of 'Helikon-Opera" at "RITA, or TO LOVE AS RUSSIANS" performance!*

Reasons that made Donizetti to create a minuature opera "Rita, or The  beaten husband" ("Rita, ou Le mari battu") are unknown. Legend says that walking across the Italian boulevard in Paris on April's day of 1839, Donizetti ran into a drama writer Gustavo Vaez and arranged to receive a libretto for new musical comedy opera from him. Opera was ready in a week. It seems that meeting on the boulevard wasn't accidental, Donizetti had had some arrangements with "Opera Comic". But staging of the opera wasn't possible at that theatre then. Meanwhile, impresario Domenico Barbaia showed interest to Donizetti's opera and wanted to stage it in Napoli. Donizetti, having passion to composing comic verses, translated his opera from French to Italian. But Barbaia died suddenly, and "Rita.." has to wait until 1860 when it was staged in "Opera Comic".  Since then, "Rita..." gained popularity and was staged in different languages under different names like "Two men and one women" or "Rita, or the Pirate triangle".

It is possible to say that Donizetti was an expert of Russia. By the time he composed "Rita.."  he already had "Il falegname di Livonia, ossia Pietro il grande" ("The carpenter of Livonia or Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia"), "Il borgomastro di Saardam" ("The Burgomaster of Saardam") about Peter the Great's life in Holland, and  "Gli Esiliati in Siberia, ossia Otto Mesi in due ore" ("Eight months for two hours, or the Exiled in Siberia"). The main idea of "Rita" was the Russian folk proverb "If the husband beats you, then he loves you". It is horrible to imagine, what could have happened, if the plot of the opera would be used by any composer of XX century! Our ears would suffer a lot! But Donizetti preferred to transform the horrors into jokes and composed an easy charming music. Thanks to him nobody notice that Vaez play is only a vaudeville. Donizetti can convince us that we hear a real opera.

"Helikon-Opera" also thinks that "Rita.." is a real opera and, undoubtedly, is a masterpece of its own way. That is why we returned from Russian famous play of Yuri Dimitrin "Rita, or the Pirate triangle", which is still performed in "Theatre on Basmannaya" in Moscow, to Donizetti's original, creating a new stage version based on full author's text.

What can happen if an Italian, a Canadian and a Russian woman cannot share anything between them? This is what a new interactive performance of "Helikon-Opera" is about. According to the rules of "Opera Cafe", you should see it relaxed and in a good mood. To drink wine, listen to the music and be ready for everything... The main thing for a spectator is to have a sense of humour!


Gasparo Sbrigani has brought his wife Rita from Russia and made it a rule to love her like Russians do, in other words, simply to beat her. But one day he has made up his mind to change the situation and moved to Canada. Meanwhile Rita, being sure that he has sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, has found a new Italian husband whom she herself could love "in the Russian way" which makes her really happy. Beppe is coming up to his wife scared to death. Accidentally he has broken a cup and is frightened. When Rita learns about the cup, she becomes outraged.

Gasparo arrives to the hotel and tells there his favorite story about the family life "in the Russian way": it is necessary to beat a wife, but never to death. Gasparo also thinks that Rita has been killed in the fire many years ago and wants to have got the Certificate of Death in order he can get married again. Rita and Gasparo run into each other and immediately recognize one another. Beppe and Gasparo start to compete in generosity, letting each other to stay with Rita. Gasparo wins and Beppe feels relieved and free as a bird. Now Rita has to choose who she wants to live with. There is only one chance for Gasparo to stay free. This chance is to steal the Marriage Contract from Rita. For that he pretends to be a loving husband and, later on, even a helpless cripple. Rita makes her choice - Gasparo, because he is a cripple and he cannot hurt her anymore. Gasparo gets the contract and wants to escape, but Beppe threatens him deadly, if Gasparo does not stay with Rita. Gasparo immediately stops pretending. But Beppe has no wish to be beaten by Gasparo, so he stays with Rita and tries to fulfill an idea of loving her "in the Russian way". Saying goodbye, Gasparo advises him not to be too zealous in that.



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