Corsaro, Francesco Andrea 1924-
CORSARO, Francesco Andrea 1924-
PERSONAL: Born December 22, 1924, in New York, NY; son of Joseph (a tailor) and Marie (Guarino) Corsaro; married Mary Cross Lueders (an actress), May 30, 1971; children: Andrew. Education: Attended Yale School of Drama, 1945-48, City College (now of the City University of New York), and Actor's Studio. Hobbies and other interests: Painting, tennis, piano, ice skating.
ADDRESSES: Home—33 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: Theater and opera director; actor. Director of plays, including "No Exit," 1947, "The Scarecrow," 1953, "A Hatful of Rain," 1955-56, "The Night of the Iguana," 1959, 1961, "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm So Sad," 1961, "The Sweet Enemy," 1965, "Cold Storage," 1978, and "Whoopee!" (musical), 1979, and operas, including "Madama Butterfly," 1967, 1993, "Faust," 1968, 1996, "Prince Igor," 1969, "Don Giovanni," 1972-73, "The Makropulos Case," 1972, "A Village Romeo and Juliet," 1973; "Die Tote Stadt," 1975, 2001, "Treemonisha," 1975, "Where the Wild Things Are," 1985, "Rasputin," 1988, "Hansel and Gretel," 1998, "Carmen," 1999, and "Rigoletto," 2002. Actor in plays, including "The Would-Be Gentleman," 1949, "The Taming of the Shrew," 1951, "Mrs. McThing," 1952, and "The Merchant of Venice," 1953. Resident stage director of New York City Opera Co., 1966—; artistic adviser and principal stage director of Houston Grand Opera, 1977—; teacher of acting at University of Houston, 1977—; artistic director of the Juilliard Opera Center, 1987—. Guest artist at Music Academy of the West, 2005.
MEMBER: National Endowment for the Arts, National Opera Institute, Actors Equity Association, American Guild of Musical Artists, Screen Directors Guild, Society of Stage Directors-Choreographers.
under name frank corsaro
(And director) A Piece of Blue Sky (three-act play), first performed in Fort Lee, NJ, at Fort Lee Playhouse, in 1958.
L'Histoire du soldat (adapted from original Ramuz text), Belwin-Mills, 1975.
Maverick: A Director's Personal Experience in Opera and Theater, Vanguard (New York, NY), 1978.
Studi Rutiliani, Patron (Bologna, Italy), 1981.
The Love for Three Oranges: The Glyndebourne Version, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1984.
Kunma (horror novel), Forge (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author of librettos, Before Breakfast (an opera in one act adapted from the play by Eugene O'Neill), Belwin-Mills; and Heloise and Abelard, an opera in three acts.
SIDELIGHTS: Francesco Andrea Corsaro has been active in the theater since his youth—as a writer, director, and actor. He is best known for his original, and frequently unusual, directorial methods with plays and operas. In the early 1960s he directed the groundbreaking one-act and full-length versions of Tennessee Williams's Night of the Iguana. Corsaro's innovative stagings have frequently provoked controversy. He is often known to tamper with fermate, the pauses in a score for which no action has been written. In a production of Stravinsky's "Histoire du soldat," Corsaro had characters on stage consuming hamburgers and milk shakes to the consternation of traditionalist opera critics. In a more popular alteration, Corsaro removed candles in a scene in Verdi's "La Traviata," thus creating an environment of dark shadows. Corsaro has also been known to employ multi-media effects in some shows, notably for "Die Tote Stadt," and his displays of sexuality are considered much more pronounced than is usually associated with opera. He has sometimes added new characters to established plot lines; in his interpretation of Doktor Faust, the doctor enters as a composer at his own birthday party, during which he endures a heart attack and finds himself as Faust, the subject of one of his own unfinished compositions. Corsaro insists that for all his innovations with the narrative, the music must remain constant.
In his search for theatrical realism in opera, Corsaro has invited surprising participants onto the stage. Artist Maurice Sendak, who specializes in illustrating children's books, was asked to do set design for Mozart's The Magic Flute, which Corsaro was directing for the Houston Grand Opera. Sendak went on to be involved in the staging of his own work Where the Wild Things Are and, in 1998, a production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel that Opera News called "bittersweet rather than saccharine." The review described some of Corsaro's adaptations: "The false proscenium arch was adorned with forest beasts, their spooky eyes staring out from behind bushes and a hungry owl using its claws and beak to kill a terrified rabbit. During the overture, a couple of dozen dirty, ragged homeless children—including fellow throwaways Hansel and Gretel—woke up on the bare Brown Theater stage and huddled together for warmth and support."
In 2002, the Juilliard School of Music slated as its first production Heloise and Abelard, which Corsaro directed and for which he had written a libretto based on his readings of the twelfth century of letters of the tragic lovers. Heloise was a young woman who fell in love with her tutor, Abelard. When their affair was discovered, Abelard was castrated; Heloise entered a convent. They maintained their relationship for years via written correspondence. Corsaro discussed his interpretation of their story with Robert Wilder Blue in an interview for US Operaweb: "To attempt a sort of logical and linear drama about what occurred in their lives was incredibly complicated. The source material was the letters, which are intrinsic to the story; without them there would be very little knowledge of the existence of these two people. And while the letters are exquisite beyond belief, they occur after all of the mayhem preceding them had taken its toll on both people and so I had to work backwards in terms of constructing their story." For Corsaro, the focus was "primarily … the love story—the transformation of this very brilliant young lady and this socalled theological rock star into two passionate lovers who then, of course, have the moment of disaster that is caused by her uncle, Canon Fulbert." In producing the libretto, he said, "I had no detailed outline until I had written the opening and the closing and had decided which letters I wanted to include. I tried to write as the action unfolded and I looked for set pieces throughout, so there are a number of arias of varying lengths. The use of Latin suggests the nature of their work together and was a way to establish the brilliance and knowledge of this sixteen-year-old girl."
In 2003, Corsaro published his first novel, a horror tale called Kunma. The story concerns a New York Jewish psychiatrist who has been ousted from his post for trying to introduce Buddhist practices into therapy, and who becomes embroiled in a fight with a mystic demon. Jackie Cassada in Library Journal called Kunma a "fast-moving dark fantasy." A Cemetery Dance reviewer mused that while Kunma "may not be as profound as its author intended … it at least provides an interesting glimpse of one system of Buddhist belief. This one isn't the haute cuisine of 'literature' but it is really good fast food."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Albuquerque Journal, (Albuquerque, NM), July 5, 1999, Joanne Sheehy Hoover, review of Carmen, p. C4.
Austin American-Statesman, (Austin, TX), March 12, 1998, Jerry Young, "Mattaliano on Rossini," p. 54.
Best Sellers, April, 1978.
Buffalo News, January 30, 1998, p. G24.
Cemetery Dance, number 45, review of Kunma. Christian Science Monitor, October 6, 1992, Thor Eckert, Jr., review of Faust, p. 11.
Commonweal, November 8, 1991, Gerald Weales, "Die Tote Stadt," p. 655.
Dance, March, 1969.
Esquire, September 26, 1978.
Horizon, October, 1977.
Houston Chronicle (Houston, TX), October 19, 1997, Charles Ward, review of Hansel und Gretel, p. 8.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Kunma, p. 552.
Library Journal, May 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Kunma, p. 132.
Music Journal, May, 1971.
Nation, November 28, 1988, p. 578; November 11, 1991, Edward W. Said, review of Die Tote Stadt, p. 596.
Newsweek, January 30, 1984, Alan Rich, review of Rinaldo, p. 74.
New Yorker, May 28, 1990, Andrew Porter, review of Hugh the Drover, p. 96; December 24, 1990, Andrew Porter, review of L'Heure Espagnole, and L'Enfant et les Sortileges, p. 78; April 22, 1991, Andrew Porter, review of "Falstaff," p. 92; May 25, 1992, Andrew Porter, review of "Fennimore and Gerda," p. 66; October 19, 1992, Paul Griffiths, review of "Doktor Faust," p. 113.
New York Times, June 24, 1978; September 11, 1988, Heidi Waleson, review of Rasputin, p. H29; September 19, 1988, Donald Henahan, review of Rasputin, pp. 19, C17; October 2, 1988, Donald Henahan, review of Rasputin, p. H23; October 10, 1988, Bernard Holland, review of Carmen, pp. 15, C18; July 27, 1989, Will Crutchfield, review of Carmen, p. C19; May 1, 1992, Edward Rothstein, review of Fennimore and Gerda, p. C5; August 2, 1993, Alex Ross, review of Madama Butterfly, pp. B3, C11; April 23, 1994, Alan Kozinn, review of L'Incoronazione di Poppea, p. 18; September 19, 1994, James Oestreich, review of Tosca, p. C16; November 21, 1998, Bernard Holland, review of Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze, p. B15; April 14, 2000, Anthony Tommasini, "A Lengthy Weill Satire, Every Last Scrap of It," pp. B10, E10; October 19, 2000, Bernard Holland, "Anything for a Laugh at a Carnival of Oranges," pp. B5, E5; May 1, 2002, Paul Griffiths, "Well, They Sure Learned Their Lesson, Didn't They?" pp. B6, E6.
New York Times Magazine, November 12, 1972.
Opera News, August, 1972; February 2, 1991, Barrymore Laurence Scherer, review of L'Heure Espagnole, p. 35; December 19, 1992, Arlo McKinnon, Jr., review of Doktor Faust, p. 42; July, 1993, Urjo Kareda, review of Tosca, p. 49; February 4, 1995, Donna Perlmutter, review of Faust, p. 44; April 1, 1995, Patrick Smith, review of Where the Wild Things Are, p. 52; June, 1996, John Von Rhein, review of Faust, p. 49; January 17, 1998, William Allbright, review of Hansel and Gretel, p. 46; August, 2001, Lawrence Johnson and M. Lignana Rosenberg, From Around the World: New York City, p. 60; February, 2002, Marcia Citron, "Houston," p. 82; February, 2004, Eric Myers, interview with Frank Corsaro, p. 16; March, 2004, Mark Thomas Ketterson, review of Faust, p. 71.
People, April 3, 1978, p. 46.
Publishers Weekly, review of Kunma, May 12, 2003, p. 49.
Time, January 30, 1984, Michael Walsh, review of Rinaldo, p. 72; October 14, 1985, Michael Walsh, review of Where the Wild Things Are, p. 108.
Wall Street Journal, September 18, 1985, Manuela Hoelterhoff, review of The Love for Three Oranges, pp. 22, 28; November 6, 1990, David Littlejohn, review of "Idomeneo," pp. A12, A20; September 16, 1992, Manuela Hoelterhoff, "Doktor Faust," pp. A13, A15.
Best Reviews, http://pnr.thebestreviews.com/ (May 18, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Kunma.
Crescent Blues, http://www.crescentblues.com/ (August 2003), review of Kunma.
Dark Echo, http://www.darkecho.com/ (September 22, 2004), review of Kunma.
Internet Broadway Database, http://www.ibdb.com/ (July 25, 2005), review of Kunma.
U.S. Operaweb, http://www.usoperaweb.com/ (spring, 2002), Robert Wilder Blue, "Frank Corsaro's Life in the Theater."*