“Cosi` fan tutte” at the Opera de Paris

cosifantutte1COSI` FAN TUTTE

OPERA BUFFA in two acts (1790)

Music by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)

Performed in Italian

From October 22 to November 13, 2013

Thus Do They All , or The School for Lovers . When Da Ponte and Mozart teach us, the lesson, however graceful, is harsh and cruel. In this game of masks and deception, the rules are entangled and everybody loses.

Thus do they all or The School for Lovers. When Lorenzo da Ponte is the teacher, the lesson is harsh and cruel, even if Mozart cannot resist tempering the implacable demonstration with musical grace. Before the cynical gaze of a pair of meddling manipulators, two brothers and two sisters become caught up in the alchemy of desire. Here we have pretend soldiers, false Albanians, a fake doctor, a counterfeit lawyer and above all, false friends! Can one really expect the heart to remain steadfast and love to be eternal? In this game of masks and deception with its labyrinthine rules, there can be no winners! Amid the vertiginous polyphony of this concerto for six voices, reminiscent of Marivaux at his most abstract and Musset at his least indulgent, Michael SchØnwandt leads his disciples along the path towards enlightenment.

The composer

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on 27 January 1756, and died in Vienna on 5 December 1791.
A child prodigy (he took his first harpsichord lessons at the age of four and started composing when he was six), Mozart soon became famous thanks to the many tours organised by his father, Leopold, who was also his teacher and mentor. Despite his short life, he is one of the most prolific composers in the history of music. In the field of opera, after his early works (La Finta semplice, Mitridate re di Ponto, Lucio Silla and La Finta giardiniera, among others), it was with Idomeneo (1781) that he truly asserted his personality. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, the following year, was his first mature work and heralded his later masterpieces : Le Nozze di Figaro in 1786, Don Giovanni in 1787, Così fan tutte in 1789. His last opera, La Clemenza di Tito, was a return to opera seria.

The work

Così fan tutte was commissioned from Mozart at the beginning of September 1789 by the emperor Joseph II who, according to legend, chose the subject himself: a news story which was then the talk of the town.
The commission could not have come at a better time for the composer who was experiencing both psychological and financial difficulties. Lorenzo da Ponte, with whom Mozart had written his two previous operas, thereby creating modern opera (opera where the orchestra no longer simply accompanies the singers but brings out the deeper psychology of the characters), was once more entrusted with the libretto. Così fan tutte is an opera which, like La Clemenza di Tito, was greatly misunderstood. For many years it was considered merely as a romantic comedy, frivolous banter for which the composer had written charming but superficial music. While it is true that da Ponte’s libretto, after the audacity of Le Nozze de Figaro and Don Giovanni, might seem conventional, it is clever, well constructed and theatrical. With his sensual, spirited and passionate music, Mozart poses fundamental questions about love and brings to the libretto surprising psychological depth and an underlying seriousness not present in the original farce.

The first performance

Così fan tutte was first performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 26 January 1790. The first production in France was given at the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris on 28 January 1809.

Logo_OnPThe work at the Paris Opera

The work entered the repertoire at the Opéra-Comique in 1920, in a French version, with André Messager as conductor. It was not until 1963 that the Opéra-Comique put on the work in its original version, in a production for the Aix-en-Provence festival. Mozart’s opera was first given at the Palais Garnier on 17 May 1974, in a production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (who was also responsible for scenery and costumes), with Josef Krips conducting (alternating with Serge Baudo), and Margaret Price (Fiordiligi), Jane Berbié (Dorabella), Tom Krause (Guglielmo), Ryland Davies (Ferrando), Teresa Stratas/Danièle Perriers (Despina), Gabriel Bacquier (Don Alfonso). Several different casts alternated in this production up until 1980. Così fan tutte returned to the Opéra Comique on 17 April 1982 in a Jean-Claude Auvray production, with scenery and costumes by Bernard Arnould, Gustav Kuhn at the rostrum, and sung by Felicity Lott, Alicia Nafé, Dale Duesing, Eberhard Büchner, Hildegard Heichele and Richard Van Allan. The opera was back at the Palais Garnier in March 1996 in a production staged by Ezio Toffolutti and conducted by Jeffrey Tate with Susan Chilcott/Emily Magee, Susan Graham, Simon Keenlyside, Rainer Trost, Eirian James and William Shimell in the main roles. In 2005, a new production staged by Patrice Chéreau was presented, with Erin Wall, Elina Garanca, Stéphane Degout, Shawn Mathey, Barbara Bonney and Ruggero Raimondi. It is Ezio Toffolutti’s production, revived in 1998 (with Melanie Diener, Angelika Kirschlager, Russel Braun, Bruce Ford, Anna Maria Panzarella, William Shimell), 2000 (with Barbara Frittoli, Katarina Karnéus, Russell Braun, Michael Shade, Nuccia Focile, Rolando Panerai), 2003 (with Anja Harteros, Enkelejda Shkosa, Russell Braun, Roberto Sacca, Maria Bayo and Alessandro Corbelli) and 2011 (with Elza van den Heever, Karine Deshayes, Paulo Szot and Matthew Polenzani) which is being performed this season.

Michael Schonwandt Conductor
Ezio Toffolutti Stage director, sets and costumes
André Diot Lighting
Alessandro Di Stefano Chorus master

Myrto Papatanasiu Fiordiligi
Stéphanie d’Oustrac Dorabella
Dmitry Korchak Ferrando
David Bizic Guglielmo
Lorenzo Regazzo Don Alfonso
Bernarda Bobro Despina

Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus

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