The Aix “Così fan tutte” Liveblogging Thread

opernglas

Welcome to the White Shirt live comment thread for Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” from the Aix-en-Provence festival 2016, starring Sandrine Piau (Despina), Lenneke Ruiten (Fiordiligi), Kate Lindsey (Dorabella), Rod Gilfry (Alfonso), Nahuel di Pierro (Guglielmo) and Joel Prieto (Ferrando).

Louis Langrée conducts the Freiburger Barockorchester, the staging is by Christophe Honoré. Further production details can be found on the Aix festival website, the video stream of the production is available through ARTE.

The libretto is available in Italian here, in English here.

I repeat the warning from the announcement: this production addresses – whether for good or for bad remains to be seen – racism and misogyny explicitly. I have been informed that during the beginning of this staging, there is a rape scene. If you don’t want to see that, skip the first few minutes and we will post the minute mark of when the scene is over. The production does, however, contain some additional racist/sexual violence.

281 thoughts on “The Aix “Così fan tutte” Liveblogging Thread”

  1. i guess this will be an evening around the question of whether Mozart was racist/misogynist and whether we are allowed to enjoy Mozart regardless or whether that is undue privilege?

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    1. wouldn’t it have been easier to put up a neon sigh saying “Mozart was a white racist imperialist and I am here to rub that in your face for the next three hours”?

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    1. perhaps they start early on with making one more sympathetic than the other? Seems to be a trend in the past 15+ years of staging.

      It’s also good to see Gilfry again. It’s been a while for me!

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        1. God, Lehtipuu just MELTS MY BRAIN in that Act II duet. The only other one I enjoy that much is Trost in the Gardiner recording.

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  2. I find it laid on too thick – of course the bet is sexist, I am aware of that even if I don’t see a group of men manhandling a woman of color during it. So far, the race angle seems illustrative, not much else.

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  3. And yes, Guglielmo is a jerk, but if he is turned into a raping racist pig before he even sings a note, he becomes one-dimensionally unsympathetic, and isn’t Mozart all about the layers in between?

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  4. well, there is certainly enough boy candy in tank tops.(which fits with the fascist aesthetic, but that is another issue)

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  5. Ah, Ruiten.
    Why is it that after that Silla and that Mitridate I now immediately expect the tall-dark-handsome female singer next to her to be the love interest?

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    1. yes, very nice – also that floating top note by Ruiten just now? Really good, Looking forward to her second aria!

      (the pit comes across a bit dry until now – or is that just me?)

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  6. So far, I give the production points for not being cutesy, but I don’t know if making it completely grim is the answer.

    And it is this kind of entitlement in moral criticism “I point out what is wrong so that makes me better!”, even while in that giving ample visibility to the abuse that is being criticized.

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  7. On a shallow note, I will be happy to listen to and look at Dorabella and Fiordiligi (and Ferrando) for the next 2+ hours.

    I REALLY should write more about Lindsey.

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  8. Ruiten sounds a lot smoother in this more lyric part than I would have expected after her Mitridate and Silla performance. Delightful!

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    1. standing on the sidelines and watching while the white leads are singing – not sure this is counteracting racism here

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    1. yes, and in this setting, even the blackface (as it is supposed to be pretend) does not come across as bad as in other parts.
      and HERE you can goa t the racism angle with a bit more layers – of white women being subjugated to white men, but having racist privilege when interacting with men of color.

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  9. though if Alfonso is so racist (though even more misogynist), how are his “best friends” two men of color?!

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  10. also, is all that brutalizing of Despina really making a point beyond gratuitous ilustration of the fact that, yes, class and gender are two points where a working class woman gets marginalized?

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    1. ah, there is the familiar coloratura power, although I continue to be taken by how soft she took the top notes in the ensembles so far.
      so far, she does “Come scoglio” with more heft – might change for “Per pietà”

      (sound still a bit flat, but that’s the recording – the pit offers more structure now)

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      1. oh yes, I remember your comments.

        (it makes no sense to compare her to PP, I think – very different approaches And then, you can’t really compare anyone to PP!)

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  11. and staging-wise, it’s exactly the point of white women having racial privilege over black men. (with class added in, since Despina does not have it).

    Also, really fine coloratura in the end by Ruiten, which does surprise none of us after the Brussels run.

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    1. actually, is there any production where Ferrando and Guglielmo, fed up with women, end up with each other?

      (I’ve seen gay Alfonso before, but not that)

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    1. I guess he is so much of a misogynist that actually conversations about feelings only happen with other men? Homo-social setting.

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    1. no, not at all. Lehtipuu has this light color and the technical smoothness that work extremely well for Ferrando.

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  12. with all the race/class/gender issues, there is really no thinking about desire.

    (and, yes, desire may tie into all that, but I don’t really see any negotiation of sensuality)

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  13. And of course there’s the black lover trope, first shirtless and then carrying around the white guys – if this is criticism, it is giving a lot of space to showing the criticized thing.

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    1. in comparison, you see KL’s acting (wide-eye, less subtle hand/body gestures) is typical of her acting I’d say. That is after watching her a few times you’d see that it remains in this range. I think vocally *i* also hear less expressions than if I compare to Ruiten’s range of emotive voice.

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  14. Life lessons with Piau’s Despina: hand me the Campari and a lounge chair.

    HOW CAN SHE SING WITH HER LEGS UP LIKE THIS?!!!

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  15. and all the casual racism still looks – beyond that shocker with the overture – illustrative and disconnected instead of a critical discussion.

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  16. could we perhaps do layers, and not sex tourists in Jamaica? it’s like the critique is killing it itself by doing everything in capital letters

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    1. and in my opinion “I want to make you feel bad! See, this is horrible racism!”is not enough for a concept. It is entitled fingerpointing if you don’t address the issues beyond that.
      Importing the Cape town chorus does not make a work less racist per se.

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          1. Sorry for simply soldiering on there – I had the video downloaded and apparently they cut the intermission, plus a large part of the curtain calls – time constraints, or editing out the boooo calls for the director?! In case it’s supposed to go to DVD (like last year’s “Alcina”)?

            >

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  17. I know I repeat myself, but so much here is simply illustration, and not a stance – so much appropriation in the imagery, and giving it too much uncommented space. “see, this si bad” does not cut it.
    (Chains and whips? With no commentary? SERIOUSLY?!)

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  18. That whole thing with the whips right now? you could make the same point with a tenth of the display. So why the display?

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  19. Also, I am not buying Dorabella falling for Guglielmo here. He hasn’t even looked at her for more than a second since the whole thing started, where is the connection?
    And if it’s supposed to be “I’m sleeping with you out of boredome and privilege” that isn’t clearly staged.

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    1. and what is this – “you would have slept with me, so clearly, you are willing to sleep with my two friends as well”?
      And what’s with this “oh, sure, sleeping with the othered is always wild and all threesomes?” (feels like a parallel to bi prejudice on a racial level — and is this AT ALL addressed here?)

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    1. to me, it reeks of “she would have slept with one ‘exotic’ person, clearly she must be promiscuous (and clearly, every othered person would immediately agree to such a scenario)”

      I get that the idea is likely that there is no connection between G/D, yet one between F/F?

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  20. anyway – forget all that. second Fiordiligi aria is coming up!
    (the only thing that challenges Ruiten are the really low bits)

    -thadieu, you will recognize this in part from one of MP’s concert clips from June!

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  21. Interesting take here scenically – with the reprise being sung to the “new guy”.
    Also, Fiordiligi willing to kiss Ferrando, and Ferrando stopping her and demasking! They really go for the “serious” emotional material between those two, and nothing between the other two (or four, as it were)

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  22. Ferrando asking about Dorabella “oh, right – that fiancée I am supposed to be in love with. Uhm.”
    (that, or he will now turn into another A grade jerk who just cares about his pride)

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  23. I like Fiordiligi listening in.
    But Ferrando’s ire is harder to sell when at this point, he is already falling for Fiordiligi fo good. (what will they do with the duet?) This would need to be done as conflict about his own guilty conscience at falling for Fiordiligi and all but seducing her.

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    1. same for me – the best Cosìs for me are the ones where they all four discover something about themselves and get tangled up in the “game”

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  24. and if we could not have Guglielmo attacking the same woman sexually all over again?!
    Are they actually staging another rape scene?
    WTF??

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    1. ‘Yawn’ was also my husband’s reaction when I took him to hear Cosi and I admit, it can get boring easily, especially when seen from the cheap seats, but such beautiful music.

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  25. so how is Fiordiligi attacking Dorabella about the infidelity when she is in on the game? Jealous about Dorabella having slept with Guglielmo?

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  26. And Despina is jealous about Dorabella flirting with her lover?
    (is this also commentary on racist prejudice against Despina possibly being in a mixed-enthnicity relationship?)

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  27. And, sorry, but Lindsey under the hose? Ruiten once more in her bra? – It feels gratuitous.
    (that stripping for putting on the bodypoint not that much – it has a logical cause – but still…)

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  28. and is Fiordiligi being sexually compliant to Ferrando in a pretty much exact echo to the earlier rape scene in the poses a show put on for Guglielmo? That parting smile at Ferrando seems to suggest so.

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  29. Dorabella: drunk and done with everything.
    Fiordiligi: so smitten.
    (I’n somewhere in the middle between those two)

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  30. interesting between Fiordiligi (who apparently has informed Dorabella?) and Ferrando right around the contract-signing: a lot more earnest conflict on that individual level.

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    1. yes – another good, small moment. Much of it Ruiten’s work.

      Now will this be another “4-5 lost souls” staging, or will anyone actually end up with anyone?

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  31. so…everyone returns to conventional life, even Ferrando, and Fiordiligi, as the only one who has undergone significant emotional growth and fallen in love decides to kill herself?
    …is there any of that schnapps left?!

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      1. or accept it as an additional layer, at the very least. With film/playhouse people I often get the impression they barrel right past that.

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    1. I would be interested in her opinion (although it’s different when you are on the inside, and of course nobody will badmouth their current production). I was kind of underwhelmed by her interview on Donna Anna, but she really put a tremendous amount of work and energy into this Fiordiligi.

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        1. it was a print interview – not sure anymore where I got it, when writing about her right after the Brussels premiere. When I come across it again, I will let you know!

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          1. ok. i also don’t know that role anyhow.. no need. i’ll get my opinion when i see her singing Donna Anna at some point down the road..
            (photo says min 38… here i come)

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          2. I’d love to hear her sing it _ I think the interview was around Salzburg 2013? (I am simply always put off when I have the impression that people accept uncontested that Anna MUST be attracts to Giovanni)

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          3. i think we need to have a watch-together appointment like today just so i’m more acquainted with that opera too😀 (though the other day i saw 1 of ACA as Elvira.. may be i should watch that)

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          4. don’t remind me – I fear we have to hand in our white shirt badges if we continue down this path. We looked at one soprano in a trouser role and look where it got us: attached to two more sopranos in addition.

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          5. no fear, we will find enough sopranos in white-shirt… though i was discussing the other day with dehggi of the lack of mezzo with heft and depth in vocal color.. because the crop now is more light + even.
            I even mean someone like KL. She sounds great at first reaction/watch but after 5 operas i find myself searching for more depth both in voice and in acting.
            (and i / we (?) am so behind in appreciating sopranos i think this is all well justified😉 , ah paris…)

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          6. always Paris.
            though after tonight, I feel fully justified in revisiting the Brussels “Lungi da te” for a time or five.
            (and I think this Fiordiligi tonight, if nothing else, answered a lot of questions on her acting chops – she is capable of more than she got to show in Brussels)

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          7. yes, i was thinking that throughout tonight’s watching episode.. that she didn’t get to show more what she can do.. i mean, that shredding machine! NO!

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          8. and you are right about Lindsey – I like her color, and she is mainstream attractive to a very high degree, but once you start looking at how she works with that color, and how she navigates expression – I never thought about it before, but I thin it does not open up as much as one would expect it to. It might also be a US s Europe thing? (also, yes on the light sound. Even with the darker color, Lindsey’s voice is still light)

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  32. So… who needs 5 minutes of Petibon in a biker jacket before bedtime/worktime?
    Because that’s what I’ll do now.
    Thank you both for blogging along again – I am glad I did not watch this one on my own.

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        1. Whereas an amateur jumped ship during the overture. No way that mime was going to lead to comedy, no way I want to see another heavily judgmental Cosi. Nor many more productions in which guilty pleasure ends up as just guilt. Good news that you came away with one lasting pleasure.

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          1. The overture was the worst part (safe for a few moments in Act II) – and then the race angle turned downright petty for much of the evening, which was just as much a disservice to the cause.
            Comedy it was not, no – which I can accept, even if it’s not my favorite kind of Così: there are gender and race issues from a present-day standpoint, and addressing them is fair game. I object, after seeing the entirety of it, to the mere shock value and the gratuitousness of some scenes, and the – to my eyes – lack of additional layers there.

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          1. Yes!!! – just the right thing tonight to counterbalance that Gotham City approach to Così.

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        1. I should have stayed for that clip yesterday evening and I would probably have had better dreams. Did I understand correctly, Don Giovanni next Thursday?

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          1. I’m game if you are! We’d just need to settle on a production.
            Or we could watch something else entirely. Any wishes?

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          2. I think it was actually me who asked for a life blog on Cosi so I’ll keep quiet this time and am quite sure to be OK with anything you and thadieu (or any one else?) suggest.

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          3. If you hadn’t suggested it, I would have – and I am really glad we watched it, it really made me think about a few things and forced me to try and put them into words.
            If thadieu wants to do Don Giovanni, we could do the 2010 Tcherniakov from Aix, which might be more “What the hell…?”, but I think I would still prefer it over the 2011 Macerata with its Hamilton filter vibes and dubious consent.
            or we could do something White Shirt again – the Aix Ariodante, or that Prina Cesare, or a revisit of the Vienna Alcina…? I am open to suggestions!

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          4. (sheepishly) yes, i have a suggestion, ACA’s Elvira (since you did ask for wishes). but otherwise, i’m up to anything you suggest, as it seems you’ve expanded my (soprano) horizon quite a bit.. or even that many-beds Don Giovanni with MP?🙂 . I still need to find out what this story is about.. other WS alternatives are good too..
            But actually 1 potential problem: i might have to arrange a telecon next Thursday with west coast.. and since it’s west coast we have to let them wake up before we call.. meaning the meeting will likely be between 2-5pm my time.. and i can not tell you for sure until likely next tues or wed… is there a possibility to do this next fri? am beginning to enjoy our summer’s “regular” event, such a nice break from constant fighting with the ocean!

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          5. I’m on a party next Friday but since it’s with family I should be back at 9 pm at the latest so that would be OK, and no (scheduled) work the next morning is a plus. Any Don G. would be OK with me. I have seen only small parts of MP’s Donna Anna so far and had planned to see that any way but I remember you mentioning the production is quite shallow? The 2010 Aix also would be interesting for me because I’m not so familiar with the singers except for Skovhus.

            I did a bit of re-listening (Audio only!) to the Aix Cosi today (in a deckchair, in the sun, how guilty) and, with the lack of all the production-related distractions, could finally appreciate the musical quality of this performance in full, especially regarding the orchestra and all female leads. With Dorabella, I very much like her ‘Smanie implacabili’! As the opera progresses, Lindsey adds characteristics of her ‘depraved’ production character to her musical interpretation which didn’t turn out well I think, but maybe was asked from her explicitly?

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          6. Interesting idea about Lindsey’s Dorablla here – I will have to revisit her scenes.

            The Antonacci would be fine (and Friday 9 p.m., too), though I have no idea yet when/where that happened and who directed it. The Macerata one, I would likely have a few choice opinions on blurred lines of consent etc., but I’d also do that.

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    1. and i also feel i need now to back to Brussels’ Mitridate to appreciate Ruiten more (btw, i listened yesterday to a tv broadcast of her interview just to hear how they pronounce her name, completely different than how i imagine! i can’t even repeat, don’t know how..)

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  33. Seems this did not impress yous too much. I would opt for a radio broadcast then…
    In fact one of the opera fan friend in Shanghai went to Aix for both Il Trionfo and Cosi. He reported that he had been stunned by Trionfo although there were some mixed feelings, and warned me about Cosi, “you won’t like the racist and fascist part of it, and the violence”, so I stayed cautious.

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    1. there was a lot of sexual and racist violence, which is always unpleasant to witness, but in this case, my biggest beef is that it did not seem to be making a larger point – the displays were too casual and illustrative and while I can respect a take on the darker aspects of Così, I felt uncomfortable with this evening insofar as there were shock images without a clear commenting angle.

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