I've had this blog since January of 2008, published my book in May of 2009, and not once have I written about Ubaldo Piangi, the principal tenor at the Opera Populaire. Frankly, up until now, I didn't know what to write nor did I think much about his character in the Phantom of the Opera.
This past week at Phantom Fans Week in Vegas I had the opportunity to meet Larry Wayne Morbitt, who plays Piangi in the production. He is a friendly, warm, and cheerful individual, and his presence made me pay particular attention to his interaction on stage with the other characters. As a result, I saw Piangi in an entirely new light as a character who exudes comedy and loyal support, but unfortunately experiences a tragic end.
Piangi, as most of you know, is not in Leroux's original work. So who is this fellow? What does he portray and what lessons can we learn from his short, but important participation in the story itself?
First, it's quite obvious he's part of the comic relief in the opening scenes of Hanibal as he attempts to crawl on top of that elephant! We learned during the costume session in Vegas his cape weighs 70 pounds! It's no wonder the guy has trouble!
Later in the scene, we see him standing by Carlotta watching her sing, comforting her after the accident occurs, and eventually storming off the stage behind her telling everyone we are a bunch of "amateurs." In every performance I've attended, the audience laughs, and I'm sure you have too.
What struck me while watching Piangi's interaction during the song Prima Donna, was the few words he spoke to the managers regarding Carlotta: "You don't deserve her!" What a friend!
Let's face it, at this point, poor Carlotta is struggling to maintain her position as lead soprano, feeling a tad bit slighted over Christine's stellar performance, and thinking she's really not needed any longer. Though the managers assure her she is valuable and want her to stay, you really doubt their sincerity.
Nevertheless, there stands faithful Piangi by her side as a friend/lover, watching over the woman he cares about, and supporting her in any way he possibly can. Of course, at the Point of No Return, we know he meets an untimely death at the hand of the Phantom. (sniffs)
What lesson can we learn? I think all of us need a Piangi in our lives! They are the friends that stand by us through thick and thin, support us when others dislike us, and encourage us when things are going rough. If you've ever had a Piangi-type friend in your life and lost them, you know how devastating that can be.
Why it's taken me so long to see Piangi's value in this story is beyond me! I can only say, bravo, to Ulbaldo Piangi for being the prime example of a faithful friend who stands by and supports the the one he loves.
Your obedient servant,
The Phantom's Student