Cosi Met Strongman

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lennygoran
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
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Cosi Met Strongman

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 19, 2017 8:19 pm

Is This new Cosi needed? Regards, Len

A Toothy Strongman Gets a Role at the Met Opera

By MICHAEL COOPER MAY 19, 2017


Performers who dreamed of appearing at the Metropolitan Opera have tried many things over the decades, but until this week none have ever used their teeth to lift a director off the floor.

In what will surely go down in the annals of opera as one of the most unusual auditions ever held at the Met, the British director Phelim McDermott was at the theater on Tuesday evening, casting his new production of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” for next season, when he asked one of the aspirants the usual question: “Do you want to do something?”

That is the point where a tenor might let rip with a little Verdi. But in this case, Mr. McDermott was not looking for a strong voice, but a strongman. His production of “Così” is set in a Coney Island-like seaside, among sideshows and carnies. His would-be strongman, a heavily tattooed, pierced and bearded man who performs as Titano Oddfellow, had an idea.

“Do you want me to do teeth-lifting?” he asked.

An obliging Mr. McDermott agreed to lie plank-like on the floor while Titano, delivering a well-honed patter in a slight brogue, affixed a leather harness to the nervous-looking director.

“I must ask you: Have you ever been bound in leather before?” Titano asked.

“Uh, I have,” Mr. McDermott said, laughing.

“My kind of guy,” the strongman replied.

Then, as the dancers of American Ballet Theater were upstairs getting ready to perform “Don Quixote” on the Met’s stage, Titano bit hard into a leather bite piece attached to the harness. He lifted Mr. McDermott, using only his teeth, and spun him slowly in a circle.


“Brilliant!” Mr. McDermott said when he was back on solid ground, and no longer had only a stranger’s dental work saving him from injury.

It was one of the final auditions for the coming “Così.” The work’s central plot point — a pair of friends disguise themselves and try to seduce each other’s lovers to test their fidelity — can require an even greater suspension of disbelief than usual for opera. So Mr. McDermott and his designer, Tom Pye, have updated the setting to a seedy locale where mystery, disguise and transgressive behavior fit right in.

A troupe of nonsinging performers will help create this ambience: a cast ranging from 3-foot-10 to 7-foot-1, including sword-swallowers and a contortionist. But Mr. McDermott took special care with Titano’s part, noting that modern musclemen, with V-shaped torsos, bear little resemblance to strongmen of yore. Mr. McDermott showed Titano photographs of the production’s 2014 premiere at the English National Opera in London, pausing over a scene featuring a variety of vintage sideshow posters. One read “Rasmus Nielsen — Mongolian Strong Man Lifts an Anvil by his Breasts.”

“That’s Rasmus Nielsen: I’ve got him tattooed right here!” Titano exclaimed, pointing to his right thigh. “He’s my favorite strongman.”

Titano, who is 44 and lives in West Philadelphia, said that performer friends had talked him into his profession about seven years ago. “They’d say, ‘You’re kind of biggish, you’ve got a big beard, you’re all tattooed: You’re a tattooed freak! You should be a strongman in our show,’” he said. “And I was like, Oh, that’s so macho, I don’t want to do that. Because I’m not that macho.”

But he created a persona and painstakingly trained himself to drive nails into planks of wood and flaming frying pans using only his hands, among other feats of strength. He began performing across the country, sometimes calling himself a freak for hire. The website recordsetter.com lists him as holding records that include “Heaviest Person Lifted Using a Beard,” “Heaviest Person Lifted Using Teeth” and “Fastest Time to Crush Five Cooking Pots While Swallowing a Sword.”

After Titano left, Mr. McDermott turned to Gillian Smith, the Met’s director of supernumeraries (nonsinging performers), and asked her to offer the part to him.

“He’s the real McCoy — so moving,” Mr. McDermott said. “You can’t really say no when he’s got your set tattooed on him. The world’s trying to tell me something.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/arts ... ic-reviews

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