News & Reviews
Artistic Director Ian Page looks forward to our performances of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which we are presenting at Cadogan Hall, Birmingham Town Hall and the Teatro Comunale in Syracuse on 6, 8 and 10 November respectively.
It is extraordinary to think that a hundred years ago Così fan tutte had for a long time been languishing in neglect. Ever since the early nineteenth century, when it had been denounced by Beethoven, and later by Wagner, as being trite, immoral and unworthy of the composer’s genius, it had been the Ugly Duckling of Mozart’s operas, misunderstood, under-appreciated and for a long time completely ignored.
Like the Ugly Duckling, however, its beauties were eventually recognised, to the extent that many people today consider it to be among the very greatest of all operas. Misconceptions still proliferate, and I still get frustrated when I hear charges of artificiality or silliness levelled against it. During the course of preparing the work over recent weeks I found myself referencing a whole range of literary references, from a broad spectrum of time, and one of these was Patrick Marber’s 1997 play Closer, the film of which makes several specific allusions to Mozart’s opera. When I looked up Marber’s play I found it described as “an uncompromisingly honest look at modern relationships”, and it struck me that this is exactly what Mozart’s opera is. For all its memorable comedic elements, it seems to me that any successful performance of the opera needs to grapple with the romantic conditioning to which the young lovers have been subjected, and the consequences of their having their preconceptions challenged.
Our forthcoming performances of the opera are billed as concert performances, and are taking place in concert halls. This is often viewed as a limitation, or at best as partial representation of the art form, but there are undoubted advantages and benefits. First and foremost it enables us to tell the story directly through the music, and this in turn enables the audience to engage their own imagination in receiving the work, with the result that, if well done, the performance can feel like ‘reading the book rather than watching the film’.
A fellow enthusiast recently suggested to me that Mozart was the greatest ever stage director, and my hope is that a detailed exploration of the score – and of Da Ponte’s superb libretto – will lead us to a rendition that is fully theatrical. To achieve this, of course, we need an outstanding cast, and I am hugely excited about the international young cast that we have assembled. I very much look forward to sharing this remarkable opera with our audiences, and hope that you will be able to attend.