A Night at the Opera 1790

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

Atonement

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…)

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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