Festival opens Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ | AspenTimes.com

Festival opens Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’

Jessica Freeman
Special to The Aspen Times
Edward Berkeley, director of the Aspen Festival and Music School's Opera Theater Center, directs Mozart's "Così fan tutte," which opens Tuesday at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House. (Alex Irvin/AMFS)

ASPEN ” For Ed Berkeley, it’s a timeless story: young people grappling with idealistic notions, romance and confusion.

Berkeley, the Aspen Music Festival and School’s Aspen Opera Theater Center director, says though Mozart’s opera “Così fan tutte” debuted more than 200 ago, it is a story that can easily be placed in any time period because of the themes and characters that bring the opera to life.

“It’s about young people in love who believe that everything in the world is perfect when it may not be,” he said.”So, it’s certainly timeless in that sense. People have set it in almost any period ” they don’t do it automatically in Mozart’s time.”

On July 10, 12, and 15, the AMFS/AOTC will present Berkeley’s production of this famous opera about young officers who test the fidelity of their sweethearts. Celebrated maestro George Manahan, New York City Opera music director, will join him for the production at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House.

Though Berkeley has directed the classic opera several times, this will be Manahan’s first time doing a production of Così, something both are excited about. It will also be Berkeley and Manahan’s first production together.

“He’s done maybe a dozen Figaros, but he’s never done “Così fan tutte,” and so that’s exciting in itself,” he said of Manahan.

One reason “Così” was chosen, Berkeley said, was to balance out a summer that includes the drama “Eliogabalo” and the tragedy “Carmen” with comedic relief. He said he plans to play into the lighter side of the opera and go one step further by adding a circus theme that will include some juggling and even cartwheels.

“We’re going into the more overtly comic side of it and trying to bring the humanity out from the comic side,” he said. “It’s going to be very bright and colorful.”

“Così fan tutte” premiered on January 26, 1790 in Vienna. It was written at the request of Emperor Joseph II and was one of Mozart’s final comic operas. Imperial court composer Antonio Salieri was originally selected to work on the opera but backed out after completing parts of the first act, supposedly because he disapproved of the risque sexual themes. Lorenzo da Ponte then took over and completed the librettist position for the opera, the title of which can be translated to “so do all the women.” “Così fan tutte’s” humor combined with Mozart’s sublime music have led it to become bedrock repertoire for almost every opera house in the world.

Performing the opera also serves as a good learning experience for students in the cast, Berkeley noted. The cast, which features six main leads, varies greatly in terms of operatic experience ” with some members already in professional companies and others starting out. With this comes a unique opportunity for younger singers to learn from more seasoned performers, he said.

Lead cast members include TamaraWilson as Fiordiligi, Sarah Larsen as Dorabella, Sarah Wolfson as Despina, William Ferguson as Ferrando, Craig Verm as Guglielmo, and Hyong Sik Jo as Don Alfonso.

“We try to come up with operas that are exciting both for audience and for students to learn,” Berkeley says. ” ‘Così’ is musically brilliant. While it’s conventional, it really gives the student singers exposure to a major work and a way of thinking about the link between music and drama.”

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