White Skirt Wednesday: Top Me Off, III

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[Top hats are clearly all-gender attire. Count on Gioacchino to bring some headdress ambiguity to the party!
(and I’d like to have a glass of whatever it was the costumer designer was drinking, please, because you haven’t even seen the flamingo get-up yet. In other news, Cage aux folles called and wants their wardrobe back) – Myrtò Papatanasiu as Fiorilla in Rossini’s “Il turco in Italia”, Genoa 2009.]

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[And you thought I was kidding about the flamingo.
Not quite tango beneath a blue moon: Vincenzo Taormina (Prosdocimo), Myrtò Papatanasiu (Fiorilla), Antonella Nappa (Zaida) and Simone Alaimo (Zaza Selim) in Rossini’s “Il turco in Italia”, Genoa 2009]

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[If you ask me, Fiorilla should ditch all three guys and instead go to dinner with Zaida to discuss the problematic othering of the oriental, debate Edward Said, and drag the stereotype of the ‘opera gypsy’ before they team up and host a fundraiser against domestic abuse, racist stereotyping and gender-based violence. – Myrtò Papatanasiu as Fiorilla in Rossini’s “Il turco in Italia”, Genoa 2009. – If you’re thinking about getting the DVD, be aware that this is a very Italian staging. For a first impression, you could always check the usual sources. *cough*]

7 thoughts on “White Skirt Wednesday: Top Me Off, III”

  1. i tried to watch it but the storyline bothered me so much i quit 1/3 way in and switched over to VK ordering the boys around in the other “l’italiana..” … will try my patience again later this month🙂

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    1. Have something chilled with an umbrella in it on the side… I think the main obstacle in watching this, coming from a regietheater approach, is that I need to remind myself that conventional Italian staging works a lot differently. And even if some of the sets are not 100% illustrative, the entire approach is still illustrative and decorative. It’s “Oh, the character is capricious! Look how we go meta with that in making the costumes capricious, too!”, but as someone used to more intellectual and less pied-de-la-lettre concepts, I keep looking for personenregie and trying to see whether something happens between the characters. And then I need to remind myself that in this mindset, that is simply not the plan. The plan is illustrating the text, not questioning or contextualizing it.

      There are bits of it when the leads are given space to explore layers a little and you can start imagining that there really is an unexpected connection between Fiorilla and Selim who meet each other as projections of an ‘other’ (the oriental and the domineering wife). But those are momentary glimpses.

      Something else that jars me is the lack of contextualisation – “Il turco” clearly is a very problematic piece from a modern viewpoint in using a ‘Turk’ as exotic, orientalist comic relief, and upturning, but ultimately rotundly reaffirming, gendered hierarchies. Of course it’s one choice to say “we simply don’t address this at all”, but I admit that I have difficulties when the gaps in sociopolitical development are not even hinted at and the same old (white) boys’ shtick is repeated and everyone keeps laughing. Even within a ‘conventional’ production there’s ways of addressing issues (they very way VK sings her Isabella in the similarly slanted “Italiana” is a good example) and Rossini offers so much in the way of irony and double layers right in the music —- but I guess there’s really a difference of approach at play, between “There should be no contextualization, just decor, it is supposed to be removed from us” and “but I cannot ignore how values and morals have changed since this was written, this is supposed to be connected to us”.

      If you’ve seen any of the outstanding scenic work Papatanasiu does in more challenging concepts, or in intense personenregie (Herheim’s Rusalka, foremost, also the Paris Mitridate, the Amsterdam Semiramide, of the ones I have seem – from the looks of it, also the TADW Iphigénie, which I missed), it is bewildering to see her in something so much “pout, prance and be pretty, and that’s it”.

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      1. (oh, i had a reply that went somewhere? blaim the slow internet…) i have seen MP as D.Anna in the amsterdam staging which i like a lot (her singing and acting, and others too, I would need to rewatch staging but it didnt bother me the way her other D.Anna did (the one from Italy where she made front cover of the dvd..). it seems there is a common point of not-made-in vs made-in Italy in all these.
        ps- i think you meant VK as Isabella

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        1. You’re right – I’m mixing up my Rossinis, sorry. Will edit my comment. Thanks for catching it!

          The 2006 Amsterdam “Don Giovanni” should go on the list, too – especially in comparison to the Italian one you mentioned! Amsterdam is a tricky concept, and Papatanasiu did very good work within it.
          She is staged to be attractive in both versions, but in one, it is putting her on display, while in the other, it is putting precisely that invited voyeurism that is so typical of “Giovanni” productions on display. I felt vaguely uncomfortable watching Amsterdam, as if I should not be watching it as to not objectify anyone, which just goes to show that she managed to transport what I understood as one of the core points of the concept.

          That Italian one – again, some singers are good enough to do their own meta commentary if given the (rare) chance, but overall, it did not engage me. And that first scene, with the “oh, she says no, but actually, she says yes” approach felt gratuitous and somewhat icky to me – mixing tropes of consent and eroticised violence (I had to think of Audre Lorde’s poignant quote on styling sex as vanilla and what that belittling of kindness says about our casual acceptance of violence and inequality in sexual communication – if it even still is communication, and not objectification/projection).

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