Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: David Robertson
My mother is a subscriber to the Metropolitan Opera so she treated me to a performance of this Mozart comedy. This is only the fifth opera I’ve seen in my life (after The Magic Flute, La Boheme, Semele, and Madama Butterfly). This was also my first visit to the spectacularly modernist Metropolitan Opera House, and now I’ve seen a performance in all three of the main venues of Lincoln Center.
As for Così fan tutte, well it’s not modern at all. The title is translated as “all women are like that” and is a misogynist depiction of women as unfaithful. The performance begins with two sailors Ferrando and Guglielmo, bragging about the faithfulness of their fiancees, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi. Their older, wiser (creepy old dude) friend Don Alfonso makes them a wager that these women cannot remain faithful. The young men pretend that they are called to war and return in disguise to attempt to seduce the other man’s fiancee, which of course, they do within 24 hours and lose the bet to Don Alfonso. There’s a lot of ickiness in all of the farce and it’s disappointing that Dorabella and Fiordiligi have to apologize for their unfaithfulness rather than ditching Ferrando and Guglielmo for their manipulative deception.
Of course, the singing and the music is lovely. I particularly like Kelli O’Hara as the feisty maid Despina who helps Don Alfonso in his plot. And some of the gags are worth a laugh, if only because the Metropolitan Opera is very loose in the translations they display on the subtitle screens (one line about a cowboy from Texas was almost certainly not in the original libretto). What’s remarkable about this staging is that it is set in a seaside resort modeled after Coney Island in the 1950s which makes for delightful costumes and scenery. They even have a team of actual sideshow performers (and a live ball python) performing tricks on stage. But the best part was the stagecraft, especially in the second act, when most of the scenes were set on amusement park rides. One aria in particular was set entirely on a floating balloon.
This Così fan tutte is definitely worth seeing for its adaptation through a carnival lens.