Frankie & Gianni is a micro-opera, 24 minutes in duration, with a cast of 2 and piano accompaniment. It is a comic twist on the old folk tale of Frankie & Johnny. (Frankie discovers her lover, Johnny, has been cheating on her, and she shoots him dead.) In Frankie & Gianni, Frankie is a rock star and Gianni covertly sings Opera behind her back. Despite his wide vibrato and operatic phrasing, Frankie believes that Gianni sings like “Sting and Elvis rolled into one.” (“Love Is Deaf”) They love to sing together. (“Hello, Stranger”) When Frankie learns that Gianni has been singing at the Opera House, (“Phone Call”) she confronts him with the information and he denies it. For the first time, Frankie hears that wide vibrato and knows in her heart that Gianni is lying to her. She tells him that every opera ends the same, which means somebody is going to die, and it isn’t going to be her! (“Bang! Bang!”) With 2 strokes of her snare drum, Gianni falls to the ground, mortally wounded. As he lay dying, he thanks Frankie, for it is a privilege to die on stage, like Carmen or Mimi. After he collapses and lies still for a moment, he pops up to sing one last aria. (“Opera Cat”)
No set is needed to perform Frankie & Gianni. Costumes come from the actors’ closets: Gianni wears a tuxedo and Frankie wears anything a rock star might wear. A snare drum and two drumsticks are needed, but no other props or set pieces.
Frankie & Gianni premiered at GASP! 2018, held at the Tampa Museum of Art. One week later, it was performed at Studio 620 in St Petersburg, Florida. Three performances, three standing ovations. Whether trying to sing rock-n-roll or singing a legit money note, the role of Gianni is a real show stealer. The show is full of inside musical jokes, most of which everyone gets (Frankie sings, “You think you can lie to me, you think I don’t count, 2, 3, 4…”) and another layer of jokes that only musicians and informed opera goers might get. (As he lie dying, Gianni sings, regretfully, “I wish I could take it from the top. Where is that damned Da Capo?”) It all adds up to a real crowd pleaser, whether you love opera or despise it!