Review: The Met Performs “Cosi fan tutti”

[NOTE: This content was provided by the Fairchester Student Press Association and produced by the Beachside Press]

Most classical music composers wrote predominantly for one musical form. Chopin and Liszt’s great composition were for solo piano. Wagner, Verdi and Liszt are known for their great operas. Mahler wrote large symphonic works.

Other composers had talent was so prodigious that they were able to write towering masterpieces in many different forms of music. Schubert wrote six hundred lieder, or songs, for solo voice and piano accompaniment, but also works for solo piano, chamber groups, and nine great symphonies. Bach churned out over a thousand compositions in his lifetime; he produced religious music for his church on a weekly basis for voice and organ ensemble, cantatas and motets, as well as masses and oratorios for the Easter and Christmas holidays. He also wrote great secular orchestral works such as the Brandenburg Concerti, and works for solo violin and cello.

An advertisement for the first performance of Cosi fan tutte in 1790.

An advertisement for the first performance of Cosi fan tutte in 1790.

Perhaps most versatile of all was Mozart, who before his early death in his early thirties, left masterpieces in every form of musical expression. In his great operas, Mozart had to combine great musical melodies with an understanding of human nature and plot to produce a story, which would appeal to the theater-going public.

Mozart wrote three operas that are considered amongst the greatest masterpieces of the form. All were written late in life, when illness forced him to write with urgency. One of these was performed at the Metropolitan Opera conducted by James Levine in series of performances in early October. I attended the October 5 performance.

Going to the Metropolitan Opera is a special treat. The sets and staging are always grand. On the back of the seat in front of you, there is an electronic translation of the opera in to English, so that you can enjoy not only the music but also the comedy and plot.

Cosi fan tutti uses a libretto written in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Two soldiers, Gugliemo and Ferrando, bet that their girlfriends will always be faithful. Hence the title of the opera Cosi fan tutti – “all women are like that”.

Another friend, Don Alfonso, a philosopher, insists that all women are fickle. Therefore, a wager is struck. He suggests that the two soldiers concoct a story that they have been called away to war. They will then reappear in comic disguises as Albanians with mustaches, and woo the other’s girlfriend. Another comic persona, Despina, the girlfriend’s maid, is persuaded to Don Alfonso to assist in the trickery.

Over the course of nearly three hours and four scenes, the disguised soldiers do in fact convince the two girlfriends to be unfaithful. But at the last moment, the prank is revealed and all are forgiven.

Naturally, this silly plot alone would not have remained a beloved entertainment if it was but the skeleton to hold arias by Mozart of the most sublime beauty. The famous arias such as “Donne mie” (“Dear ladies”) and “E amore” (“Love is a little thief”) and the duet  “Il core vie dono”  (“I give you my heart”) have taken on a life of their own as concert pieces.

At the end of the evening, the audience has enjoyed glorious music, silly comedy, and wonderful theatre sets. There is great applause for conductor James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera’s great musical director, who now has to conduct from a specially designed motorized wheelchair because of spinal injuries, but nevertheless produces spectacles of drama and musical beauty.

— Sophie Tepler, Editor-in-Chief at the Beachside Press

Posted by on October 24, 2013. Filed under FSPA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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