Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Così fan tutte

was a disappointment. To be fair, the opera is a thicket of dramatic problems, but playing the opera as a farce misunderstands and wastes the depth of Mozart's musical setting.

It seems that the director spent more time reading Da Ponte's libretto than studying Mozart's score. Finding the middle ground between the two is the key to success with Così, and it was not achieved in this production.


This was also my first time inside the new opera house. It is, just as the critics note, fairly boring, architecturally speaking. It's nice, very clean looking, kind of Scandinavian in its feel, despite the absence of Scandinavian levels of subsidy. The all-glass staircase is a novelty, but not nearly as visually exciting as it had been made out to be.

As for the hall itself, it too is bright and clean, with great sightlines and an astonishing immediacy to the sound from the pit of the stage - it sounds as though you're listened to the piece through headphones.

Like many others, I was disappointed that this opera house wasn't an of architectural marvel, or the jewel in our city's crown of arts institutions. However, sitting in the house last week, it occurred to me that perhaps this was exactly the right decision for Toronto.

By making the inside of the house, the acoustics, the backstage, the most important part of the house, Richard Bradshaw and the COC have made a commitment to opera in Toronto. Something people neglect to remember when pointing to the Sydney Opera House as what we could have had is that the Sydney Opera House is a lousy place to stage operas!

Yes, that's right. Richard Bradshaw felt it was best to put the horse before the cart here in Toronto, to ensure that if one day, in the glorious future of opera in Toronto, where people stop clapping for everything, including brightly lit sets, and boo an all-nude production of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten for it's lack of dramatic urgency.

Building a nice, but not great, opera house is Bradshaw's greatest gift to the city. Now we have no excuse but to focus on the quality of the productions. We can no longer lament how awful the sound is, or how the stage is too large. There are no excuses anymore. Our opera culture can mature a bit now, in a way that a Gehry-designed opera house on stilts with a roof that opened would have never allowed us.

Dare I say it....it's time to start booing.

The disappointment of Così fan tutte hit this home. The sets were old, the dramatic intent of the opera misunderstood, and the balance between the orchestra and the singers surprisingly bad. What we need now is for the audience to no longer pity the circumstances, and force the COC to improve the overall quality of its productions, as they are wildly inconsistent. (How did they manage to make Carmen boring last year?)

Nonetheless, we opera lovers are very much of the side of the COC. Mr. Bradshaw, you have set the bar very high. Here's to hoping you can vault it.


Gawain said...

Hey Alt:

"playing the opera as a farce misunderstands and wastes the depth of Mozart's musical setting"

yes. and it seems nearly every production of CFT today insists on playing it as a farce. which breaks my heart because it is my favorite M opera. it goes in line with your next post -- on the horrible things people do to classical music supposedly in order to do it a favor.

Otto van Karajanstein said...

I think it's because it's easier to play it as a farce than to find a way to square Da Ponte's light libretto with Mozart's deep music.

How do you deal with the ending after what Fiordiligi goes through dramatically? How do we accept that everything is back to normal at the end?