22 May 2014, Thursday
La scuola degli amanti
The Bolshoi Theatre presents the opera "Cosi fan Tutte"!
On May 24th the opera "Cosi fan Tutte" will premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre.
"Cosi fan Tutte" has faced more challenges than any other opera by Mozart. Perhaps, not any other of his pieces caused such a controversial reaction and had such mixed reviews.
This opera is the last one in the famous trilogy, created by Mozart and Da Ponte ("Le Nozze di Figaro" - "Don Giovanni" - "Cosi fan Tutte"). After the successful production of "Le Nozze di Figaro" in Prague (1787) the composer was commissioned to write "Don Giovanni"; the production of "Le Nozze" in Vienna (1789) resulted in the commission for "Cosi fan Tutte". This time it was the Emperor Joseph II, who commissioned the composer to write the opera; he was also the one, who had the idea for the plot. According to some sources, the story of the unsuccessful test of the fidelity of two ladies took place in the real life and quite entertained society in Vienna or in Venice.
The first performance of the opera "Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti" took place at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790. However, in the end of February the run was stopped by the death of the Emperor Joseph II and the resulting period of court mourning. In June 1790 performances resumed, but the opera was performed only five more times. This is how its challenging life on the stage started; over the years the opera was edited several times; the title and the libretto were changed numerous times.
For a long time the libretto was considered to be a week point; it was criticized for being immoral, cynical and not true to life. An Austrian music critic Eduard Hanslick wondered: "It is surprising, just how blind the two heroines are: they do not recognize their fiancés only a quarter of an hour after they had said goodbye to them, and they take their own maid first for a doctor and then for a notary - only because she is wearing a wig". He also voiced the cruel verdict, which the opera was given by the 19th century: "The enormous banality of the libretto strikes the wonderful music by Mozart a fatal blow. The culture of our time cannot bear it, no matter how much we would like it to happen. I consider "Cosi fan Tutte" not to be suitable for the stage anymore".
But the 20th century with its love for games and masks, quoting and searching for hidden meanings, discovered this opera once again and started studying it enthusiastically. The conclusions that were made are absolutely the opposite: "Cosi fan Tutte" is the best libretto, written by Da Ponte, and the most sophisticated opera, composed by Mozart" (the British musicologist Edward Joseph Dent). The brilliant mind game is found in a "stupid" libretto. There are a lot of quotes from literature and musical pieces in the opera; Mozart and Da Ponte parody stereotypes and those roles that are uncommon for the 18th century operas, and much more. The circle of literary associations is very wide. According to some researchers, the literary model of the libretto can be traced back to "The Decameron" by G. Boccaccio and "Orlando Furioso" by L. Ariosto; at its core it is similar to so-called "comedies of ideas" by Bernard Shaw.
It is like Mozart and Da Ponte go back to the traditional form of opera bouffe of the 18th century with its typical characters, which look like they came from commedia dell'arte. But this is only what lies on the surface. Several years earlier Mozart had described a detailed model in a letter to his father: "Here we need two female characters of an equal importance; one of them should be serious, the second one - semi-character. These two parts should be of the same quality. The third female part can be totally comic. The same applies to male characters". But in "Cosi fan Tutte" the scheme is not so straight-forward. His characters gain new traits: "serious" Ferrando has comic music as well, while "semi-character" Dorabella gets an aria, that would have suited a tragic heroine. The opera does not fit the traditional idea of a genre. The authors themselves called it "drama giocoso", which means "a funny drama". In reality "Cosi fan Tutte" covers a wide range of genres, from "opera seria" ("serious opera") to a frivolous farce. A comic and tragic overlap. Pathetic behavior is irrelevant and makes one smile; a game situation suddenly reveals true human emotions and a real drama. It seems that the opera is shallow, but there are thoughts about the motives of human deeds, man's changing nature, those rules that are accepted in the society and the "needs of hearts".
This opera was staged at the Bolshoi Theatre only once, in 1978. Yuri Simonov conducted the orchestra at the opening night; Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasiliev staged the production; Valery Levental designed the set. The opera was performed 52 times and was removed from the repertoire in 1986.
In 1989 Teatro alla Scala (Milan) brought the opera "Cosi fan Tutte" to the Bolshoi Theatre.
In 2012 the Bolshoi Theatre returned to this opera and presented its concert version at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. Two years later "Cosi fan Tutte" will finally be presented to the audience in its "full" version. A very young production team will present its interpretation of this opera.
The director Floris Visser (The Neterlands) is only thirty, but he has already worked as a drama and film actor, studied to become a vocalist, started teaching and finally become a director. He staged productions at the Royal Theatre Carré (Amsterdam), the Dutch National Opera, the Royal Theatre of the Hague and Theater Osnabíјck (Germany); he has been the artistic director of Opera Trionfo (Amstelveen, the Netherlands) since last year.
The young director does not consider this opera to be frivolous: