Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

This is the season for Summer Opera Festivals throughout North American and Europe: Glimmerglass, Santa Fe, Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence, Salzburg - it seems if there's a venue then there's a Festival. And at most Opera Festivals - save perhaps the Wagnerian endurance test that is Bayreuth - there is normally one of the Mozart-DaPonte operas: Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni or Cosi fan tutte.

While the first two have remained popular since their premieres Cosi was infrequently performed - it was considered highly frivolous by the Romantics and downright immoral by the Victorians. All that began to change in 1934 when it was the surprise hit of the first Glyndebourne season (the 1935 recording of that production is still a benchmark and a best seller for EMI.) It is now recognized as perhaps the subtlest and at times most disturbing of Mozart's collaboration with Da Ponte.

Two young officers make a wager with an old confirmed bachelor that their respective fiances (two sisters) are faithful. To prove their fidelity they pretend to be called away to battle then return in disguise to woe each other's girl. The wager is made in a spirit of cynicism, the emotions that surface unexpected and the outcome uncertain - though they return to their respective partners there is a question as to how happy any of them will now be.

The trio from Act 1 is perhaps the best known piece of music in the opera, thanks largely to its use in Sunday, Bloody Sunday. The two women watch their lovers depart and they pray for soft breezes and safe journey for the ones they love. It is one of those times in Mozart when time stands still and even the instigator of the wager seems to succumb to the emotion of the moment.

I have to admit that Cosi is my favorite opera - I have 6 versions of it on CD including that 1935 classic. I've seen it on stage 10 times and don't ever recall the trio not having an emotional pull. Though I don't particularly like the decor or the Giorgio Armani costuming in this 1997 production from Covent Garden, Soile Isokoski, Helene Schneiderman and Alessandro Corbelli are an incredible blend of voices and the heart strings are tugged.

And to any of you travelling for the summer holidays: May the breezes be gentle and the waves calm.

13 agosto - San Ipolito


evilganome said...

I have an old Angel recording with Schwartzkopf. It is a beautiful opera which I have grown to appreciate more as the years have gone by. While I love all the DaPonte, Mozart collaborations, I am still a sucker for Nozze.

Thank you for sharing this. The singing more than makes up for the production.

Anonymous said...

I am ignorant of opera but that was very moving.

sageweb said...

THe singing is wonderfull. I especially liked the sub-titles so I could figure out what they were saying.

Doralong said...

Highly frivolous and downright immoral, now that's entertainment my friend..

Elizabeth said...

your knowledge of opera always impresses me. I've only seen a few in my life, but learn a lot from reading your posts. Maybe one of these days I'll see Cosi!