Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Third Post: In which the author stops numbering his posts, stops saying, “in which,” and mulls over the reality of Cosi Fan Tutte

(I was going to post about Vec Makropolous by Janacek. But I wrote way too much, and it needs major editing. This is a blog after all, not a book. That post will show up soon though.)
Cosi Fan Tutte, or as someone once noted, Cosi Fan Tuttieveryone is like that!
I have been studying Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte a lot lately. In my very young youth, I borrowed a Metropolitan Opera performance in English on LP (remember LPs?) from the library, and apparently I listened to it—a lot.  I later realized that much of the music (particularly Ah, guarda, sorella, the opening duet for the sisters) became encoded in my brain. 

For a long time I was turned off by the misogynistic attitude of the libretto (much as I was annoyed by the way Rock Hudson behaved toward Doris Day in all those movies). But I’ve learned to go beyond the literal meaning of opera libretti; to watch and listen more closely. And I have learned that Mozart’s music frequently contradicts or undercuts the text of his operas—particularly in Cosi.
Recently I’ve seen three different performances on DVD, through which I am learning to savor the ambiguity of this plot. 
In the Salzburg M22 production directed by Karl-Ernst & Ursel Herrmann, the sisters overhear the men plotting to fool them. (note this in the clip, between 6:00 and 6:30) One still wonders how much they really know. Do they realize the men going off to war is part of the ruse? A reviewer on complained it was difficult to tell the sisters and lovers apart, since they were dressed so much alike. Aha! (In the overture, you may even notice that the sisters are playing badminton with look-alikes of their lovers.) More about that in another post.  

In the 2009 Zurich production (featuring Malin Haretlius), Don Alfonso is really running things. It’s almost like a lab experiment. This trailer gives away the twist at the end, but it doesn't show how we got there. Again, the two couples seem interchangeable. Hmmm. More about that later. 
      In Doris Dorrie’s Berlin production of2002 (starring Dorothea Röschmann), the lovers don’t seem so interchangeable. However, they seem mis-matched in their original pairings.  I love this 60’s version, in which the men have a pre-Madmen Madmen vibe. Act two goes hippie. More about that soon.
None of these productions has a traditional “happy ending.”  The couples all seem at the very least disoriented, if not downright pissed off. Stay tuned for more about that.
And in a gratuitous mention of Luca Pisaroni, here is an excerpt from a Cosi performance I have not seen yet. But I look forward to it. It also features Miah Persson.
Happy Listening!

P.S. Sorry about links instead of embedded videos. I am still learning this blogger system. 
P.P.S. I just remembered I have recently seen a fourth Cosi, but, more about that later. 


  1. In case this is useful: For embedding youtube videos, click on the "Share" button below the video, then the "Embed" button. A box with code will appear. Copy and paste the code into your post draft -- make sure your Blogger draft page is in "HTML" mode rather than "Compose", or you'll be posting code instead of video. You will probably have to tweak the size, which you do by changing the height/width numbers in the code itself once you've pasted it.

    1. Thanks for the tip! I will give that a try for my next post.

  2. I know what you mean about the libretto of Cosi - I had the same reaction the first time I heard/saw it. But it's true, the music really does make the story more complex and interesting - it's like there's a conversation going on all the time between text and music.

    1. When I started listening to Mozart operas, it was all about the music. I understood the surface of the plot of Cosi; but back then, I didn't have enough life experience to have an opinion about it. It was later I went through the "ick" phase.

      The more I learn about Mozart, the more in awe of him I become!

  3. Please see the Glyndebourne Cosi VERY SOON. It is beautifully sung and brilliantly acted. It's the production that made me like Cosi.

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog, and thanks for the encouragement on the Cosi!


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