Risky Regencies

A Night at the Opera 1790

So, in the news this week–the Oscar nominations! The nods for Best Costume Design are:


La Vie en Rose

Across the Universe

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Sweeney Todd
The only one that really surprised me was Across the Universe. I might have guessed Becoming Jane or maybe Pirates of the Caribbean 3. My personal pick might be Elizabeth, but my crystal ball says Sweeney Todd. As for the other noms–too close to call. 🙂

In entertainment news in 1790, there was the premier of Mozart’s Cos fan tutte.

According to Henry W. Simon’s book Festival of Opera, CFT “has been sung under more names than any other opera in history.” For example, the Metropolitan has called it Women Are Like That (the translation I’ve heard the most often). In England, it was once called Tit for Tat. In Denmark, Flight From the Convent, in France The Chinese Laborer (funny–I don’t recall convents or Chinese laborers in the story at all!). And in Germany, lots of different things, such as The Girls’ Revenge and The Guerillas.

Under whatever name, it had its premier at Vienna’s Burgtheater January 26, 1790, with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte and music by Mozart (the two had also collaborated on Le nozze di Figaro, my personal favorite Mozart opera, and on Don Giovanni.) The source of the story is not known, though there is a (probably apocryphal) tale that it was suggested by Emperor Joseph II based on a high society scandal of the day. Whatever the inspiration, the Emperor did commission the work, requesting a comedy. Mozart was paid 450 guldens for it, and it was nearly his last opera (only La clemenza di Tito and Magic Flute, both 1791, are later).

During the 19th century, the plot was considered rather risque and the opera was rarely performed. It’s an ostensibly lighthearted look at the twists and turns of romantic love. It begins in a Naples cafe, where two young men, Ferrando and Guglielmo, argue with Don Alfonso that their fiancees, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, would never betray them. Aided by Despina, the sisters’ saucy maid, the men hatch an elaborate plot to test the womens’ loyalty. They disguise themselves as Turkish soldiers and woo each other’s girlfriends, eventually winning over the at-first reluctant sisters. In the end, the disguises are revealed, and all is forgiven–though just how happy such marriages can be is anyone’s guess.

At the premier, Adriana Ferrarese and Luisa Villeneuve played the sisters; Francesco Bennuci and Vincenzo Calvesi their lovers; Dorotea Bussani was Despina; and Francesco Bussani Don Alfonso.

So, we have News in Entertainment 2008 and 1790! Which movie do you call for Best Costumes (or any other nominee)? Do you have a favorite opera? And Happy Saturday! (I always do love Saturday…)

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14 years ago

For the Oscars I am torn between Elizabeth the Golden Age and Sweeney Todd. Although I think costuming Elizabeth would have been tougher. I was a little surprised about Becoming Jane and Pirates, as well. Never heard of Across the Universe.

Cosi is a fun opera to sing, but basically stretches the imagination a bit.

Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) is probably my favorite to sing (Queen of the Night is so deliciously evil and her big aria is a guaranteed standing ovation if you sing it right! I nailed it when I was younger. Doubt if I could do it now!)

I love just about anything by Mozart as it was my bread and butter in Europe. Zerlina in Don Giovanni was always fun to play as she was such a dingbat and so unrepentent!

14 years ago

Well, today is the day that Phantom of the Opera came to Broadway, 20 good old years ago. . . hmm, 20. Yikes. Does that count? LOL 🙂

Oscars though, haven’t a clue, haven’t seen any of the movies of any category, basically. LOL I imagine they might go with Elizabeth. . . figuring there is a wide range of stuff in it. The commercials of Sweeny Todd look like the whole thing is rather dark, so maybe the costumes are similar. But that’s only going by commercials. 🙂


Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) is probably my favorite to sing (Queen of the Night is so deliciously evil and her big aria is a guaranteed standing ovation if you sing it right!”

Once (I think it was on “Oprah”) I saw an 8 year old girl sing this aria. I was appalled that any voice teacher would allow such a thing! But I agree it’s amazing when a trained adult singer nails it. 🙂

“Oscars though, haven’t a clue, haven’t seen any of the movies of any category, basically.”

In the Best Picture category, I’ve only seen 2 of the movies–Juno and Atonement, and I liked them both. Another movie I wondered about for Best Costumes was “Amazing Grace,” but then I couldn’t remember if that came out this year or last year!

Cara King
14 years ago

I’ve seen all of the costume nominees except La Vie En Rose…and that just arrived from Netflix!

As for who *will* win (not necessarily who I think *should* win)…here are my thoughts, on the four I’ve seen.

Atonement had that green dress that everyone was talking about…which has to help. It also had a huge number of costumes (in the war scenes), which I believe ups the chances (the Academy seems to gives points for quantity as well as quality!)

Sweeney Todd has the asset that the costumes were nothing like those in any of the stage shows…but it has far fewer costumes than some of the others, and I believe Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett wear the same clothes pretty much throughout…which I suspect won’t help. (Think how many changes of costume Keira Knightley had!)

Elizabeth has very showy costumes, which helps… But I suspect the sequel-ness of it might lead some voters to think it wasn’t as tough a job as costuming a non-sequel…

Across the Universe — I saw it months ago, and loved it, but I confess I don’t hugely remember the costumes! But it’s directed by Julie Taymor, and visually stunning (like all Julie Taymor stuff — she did Lion King on Broadway, and Titus [based on Titus Andronicus] in the movies…), so I’m guessing the costumes are part of that stunningness…

As for the chances of Across the Universe? Although it ended up a surprise hit with the teen and tween girl audience, and did better than many predicted overall, it didn’t do huge numbers…so unless Oscar voters all watch their screeners (and this is the movie’s only Oscar nomination), I suspect not many will have seen it…

(BTW, Doglady, it’s a bizarre and delightful musical set in the 60s in which all the characters sing Beatles songs. Starring a very cute Brit whom I’m sure Amanda would love…) 🙂

Across the Universe

So if I were betting, I’d put my money on Atonement…


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Atonement won the Golden Globe for best picture, so I think it’s going to win the Oscar, too.

For costumes, I’d plump for Elizabeth. Pirates certainly deserved a nomination, but since this was the third in a series, they fel ti was more “been there, done that” sort of thing.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute is my favorite opera hands-down. Among the musicals, I like My Fair Lady, Lois’s Phantom, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

In Entertainment News of 2007 and 2008, the writers’ strike seems to be here to linger. The writers have my strong support, however, for their own sakes and the sakes of their viewers, they need to change their tactics in order to resolve this, so they can return to work, make money, write new material, and we viewers can return to new content and the Oscars.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Oscars for best costume….What??? not 300????

I have never seen a live Opera (picture doglady swooning at this shocking disclosure). It is something my husband and I sometimes talk of doing (and Washington DC certainly is a place we might do that.) So, I’m forced to and happy to agree with Lois.

Favorite opera = Phantom of the Opera!!!!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I had the opportunity once to watch a dress rehearsal at the Met of Cosi Fan Tutte when I was in high school. Maria Ewing and Kiri te Kanawa sang the female leads and Kathleen Battle played their maid. I hope that Elizabeth wins for best costume design although I love the costumes from all the other films, and only wish that I was thin enough to wear Keira Knightly’s dress from Atonement.

14 years ago

Diane, the Academy didn’t think teeny tiny leather loin clothes constituted a costume. Needless to say, millions of women (and some men) think otherwise. I understand there were protest marches all along Hollywood Blvd..

My favorite operas are ‘La Boheme’ and ‘Madame Butterfly’.

I haven’t seen any of those movies. I did see Sweeny Todd on Broadway with Dorothy Lamarr (Angela Landsbury was sick) and loved it.


Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Diane, the Academy didn’t think teeny tiny leather loin clothes constituted a costume.”

There were capes, too, right? 🙂

Elizabeth, I agree “Elizabeth” should win Best Costumes. Even though the movie itself was disappointing, the costumes kicked butt (and I wouldn’t mind if Cate Blanchett won Best Actress, either. She really deserved to for the first one!)

Diane, get thee to an opera right now!!! 🙂

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Starring a very cute Brit whom I’m sure Amanda would love…)”

Ah, yes, it’s true I do luvs me some Brits! Orlando, David Tennant, James McAvoy… 🙂

14 years ago

I have to agree about 300, O Divine One! Sometimes less is more and the costumes for 300 were certainly Oscar-worthy to me!!!

Never seen and opera? And in DC, no less!!! For shame. A Mozart opera would be a great way to start. One of the comedies like Cosi or Figaro.

A shorter opera in English would be anything by Gian Carlo Menotti. He is very popular in the Washington area opera house. Amahl and the Night Visitors is usually done around Christmas and it is excellent. I have done The Medium by him – it is a little dark and scary. The Telephone, however, is a hoot and a half. It is very simple. Two characters – a guy and a girl at her apartment and the third character is the telephone. The poor guy is trying to propose to her before he leaves on a business trip and every time he gets ready to pop the question the phone rings. She has this long conversation and when she hangs up he as to start over. It gets so bad at one point when she leaves the room he begins to plot ways to kill the telephone. Great opera!

Amanda, any teacher who would allow an 8 year old to sing Der Holle Rache should be shot! I did not begin to study that area until I was 20 years old. I did not sing it on stage until I was 23. I don’t take students on for voice lessons until they are 12 and then I only have them sing simple songs and work on breathing. Oh, and I always demanded and got more money for the Queen of the Night. Those F’s above high C don’t come cheap!

Elizabeth, I am green with envy. That was quite a cast you got to hear!! All of those ladies are top drawer!

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

OMG Elizabeth. You got to see Maria Ewing, Kiri te Kanawa, and Kathleen Battle all in one night. I would’ve expired on spot.

Pam, a high-F. WOW!

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

Favorite operas. What a question. There are some operas I’ve seen that I think were the ultimate productions and I don’t think I’m ever to see anything as good, but I don’t know that Tannhauser (directed by Werner Herzog) and Turandot (the Forbidden City production tho I didn’t see it in China!) are my favorite operas. Also the movie of The Magic Flute directed by Ingmar Bergman is fabulous.
Otherwise, La Traviata, Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni. For starters.
Diane, you won’t be able to get single tix at the Wash Opera. Try Baltimore. But go, go.

14 years ago

I will not predict the Best Costume award–it has sometimes seemed very random in the past. I have seen all but one of the nominees, though. My guess is that Best Picture is between Atonement and No Country For Old Men.

I don’t know that my familiarity with operas is broad enough that it makes sense for me to claim a favorite. But of ones I know, I like Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute; and Pagliacci.


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