Così Fan Tutte

Così Fan Tutte
Mozart
Performed at the Salzburg Festival, Austria
Conducted by Adam Fischer
Directed by Claus Guth
Starring Miah Persson and Isabel Leonard
HD at Camera 7 Pruneyard, Campbell, CA

There are many different ways that a director can legitimately interpret this opera.  The basic story is extremely simple.  Two friends are “in love” with two sisters.  For the men, being in love means stating (to the world in general and to Don Alfonso in particular) that “My woman is perfect in all respects and if you don’t agree I fight you to the death.” To the women it means wearing a locket with their man’s picture in it and plunging into utmost despair at the thought of their lovers going off to war.  Don Alfonso bets each of the men that if they will follow his orders their women will be untrue to them in 24 hours.  Each man is to pretend to be called away by the army, but they will return, disguised as Albanians, and attempt to win away the other’s loved one.  Don Alfonso enlists the aid of the sisters’ maid Despina in carrying out this scheme.

I have seen the opera played as a light-hearted comedy.  I have seen it played more darkly with Don Alfonso more of a villain playing with other people’s souls.  I have seen Despina fully conniving with Don Alfonso’s schemes, and I have seen her taken in by the men’s disguises and hurt and shocked when she finds they are the original lovers testing their amorata’s faithfulness.  I have enjoyed them all, and I have been fascinated by the way a director could take a different perspective for the motives and actions of the characters and make it all fit together.

Frankly, I did not enjoy what director Claus Guth did to Mozart’s opera.  First of all, it was all done in modern dress, for no apparent reason.  There was no attempt at physical disguise; the “Albanians” were wearing formal white suits instead of informal dark clothing but their faces were unchanged, and the audience had no help in swallowing the fact that the sisters did not recognize them.  Similarly when Despina appears as a doctor, she hasn’t changed her attire or put on a wig – she merely carries a big white box with a red cross on it.  Guth didn’t even bother to be consistent.  In all other productions I’ve seen, the Albanians covered half their faces with enormous mustaches whereas here they are still clean-shaven.  But there are still references to the mustaches in the sub-titles (and I assume in the original sung Italian).  I had the impression that Guth made changes merely for the sake of making changes and without any clear idea of just what story he wanted to tell.

I did rather like the way the final scene was staged.  As the six characters sing their finale and all forgive each other and look forward to a facing a happy future with the eyes wide open, they were circling about the stage in complex movement.  Even for the curtain call, the men were on one side of the stage and the women on the other.  It was left up to each member of the audience to decide if they went back to their original pairing or stuck with their new Albanian pairing – or were planning a happy menage a quatre.

Ciao – – Philip

PS     On my calendar for tonight (Wednesday) I had listed both Turandot Encore at Palo Alto and Così Encore in Campbell.  I regretted the conflict but figured I’d wait until I’d seen the first showing of each before making up my mind.  As you might guess, it was no problem.  There are depths and intricacies still to be explored in the Puccini; I don’t think there are any depths in this production of the Mozart.  – – ph

RIDDLE – Revisited

Kudos to sister Mary for submitting 11 answers – all correct – and to daughter Sue for coming in a close second.  A friend who probably prefers to remain anonymous is a distant third for sending in one answer – incorrect.

Frankly, I was disappointed in the low response rate.  I know you are all opera lovers, and, since I regard you all as friends, I’m pretty sure that many of you appreciate puzzles and puns.  So I’m going to try once more.  I promise I’ll make no further reference to them in a general mailing; if you want the answers, you‘ll have to send me your attempts and I’ll respond individually.

The first list below is the original 15 clues to operatic composers, in random order.  If that daunts you, scroll down to the second list of the 15 composers in alphabetical order All you have to do is match them.

OPERA COMPOSER QUIZ

What well-known composer is . . . ?

  1. Frequently at the rear
  2. The majority of the paintings
  3. Exhibit kitchen utensil
  4. What to do when a bowl is thrown at you
  5. Composed before the Mass in B
  6. Scram, fellow
  7. Hut where marriages are dissolved
  8. Half of a child’s game
  9. Jointly designed
  10. What to do after you aim
  11. What to tell a tired hog
  12. Knock the bread baker about
  13. Stout and sturdy wizard
  14. Over there, a bank draft
  15. Not on

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PS   OPERA COMPOSERS

  • Beethoven
  • Berlioz
  • Chopin
  • Copland—squint mentally when you say this one
  • Dvorak—give it the Czech pronunciation
  • Falla—give this one a strong Brooklyn pronunciation
  • Haydn, there being no composer by the name of “Goseek”
  • Janacek
  • Katchaturian
  • Massenet
  • Mozart
  • Offenbach
  • Orff
  • Respighi
  • Schumann
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