Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cosi Fan Tutte – Salzburg M22 (Part 2: Fencing, the Feather, the Apple, and the Egg)



The Fencing:  In the opening scene Don Alfonso (Sir Thomas Allen) is coaching  Ferrando (Shawn Mathey) and Guglielmo (Stéphane Degout) in fencing skills. The swordplay is a clear image to associate with the conflicts in the opera. In the opening of Act 2, the sisters mirror the boys by pretending to fence with their fans.
The Feather:  Summoned by Alfonso, the feather flutters down from the flies at the very beginning of the opera; his cohorts ooh and ahh. The four lovers notice the feather on the ground as they enter; they shrug and start playing badminton; it shows up as the quill in the “marriage” scene in Act 2. This also may be a reference to the mythical phoenix that Alfonso sings about at the beginning.


The Apple:  The obvious interpretation is temptation, so it probably means something else; but temptation works. Strangely, several apples fall out of Ferrando’s suitcase as the men go off to “war.” Fiordiligi picks one up as they sing the Suoave sia il vento, then hands it to Alfonso, who drops it in the orchestra pit. (One of the bass players catches it. I don’t think there is specific symbolism in that.) Fiordiligi shows up with it again in Act 2, where it is handed it off several times, serving as a kind of bridge between the two seduction scenes.
The Egg:  Initially, I was inclined to go with Thomas Allen’s suggestion that Herr Hermann’s brain is in there.

On further consideration, the egg seems to be both a gathering place and a hiding place. The sisters tend to lurk near the egg when observing the men; and the this is where the big shift happens in the Act 2, when the four lovers gather at the egg. Up to this point, men are still wooing their own girlfriends. Fiordiligi surprises them all by taking the lead and asking Ferrando to go for a walk. The egg is the catalyst!
Or maybe the egg contains Alfonso’s brain; maybe he conjures up the entire story just to make a point about fidelity, and to entertain his party guests. Maybe Alfonso and the chorus are the only “real” people on the stage.
In the next post: The Ambiguity of Cosi and a brief wrap-up.

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Fiordiligi (Ana Maria Martinez) clearly is used to Dorabella's (Sophie Koch) drama queen behavior.  (Despina and Keyboard Lady are more taken aback) The broad acting style compensates for the minimal staging. 

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And Ferrando seduces just about everyone with Un' aura amarosa 
(except Alfonso, of course!)

4 comments:

  1. This looks so cool! (Have not listened to clips yet, but I will) (Just for clarity, this is earwormopera - my LiveJournal account works to comment, but not Wordpress!)

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  2. Hey! You made it in! I am so glad. Now you can hijack MY blog if you want to. Given the Clemenza Potato, I will be interested to hear your thoughts on the Cosi Egg!

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  3. "Keyboard lady" is Rachel Andrist. I was at a reception with her and Tom Allen last night.

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