Thursday, March 21, 2013

BLO Exposed (Part 2): Sir Thomas Allen Answers Audience Questions

Boston Lyric Opera is in its second season of presenting BLO Exposed. This intermission conversation series gives audience members a behind-the-scenes look into each production and invites YOU, its audience, to ask questions through social media during our Wednesday night productions at the Shubert Theatre. For BLO’s recent production of Così Fan Tutte, Megan Cooper, Manager of Community Engagement, and Cecelia Allwein, Development Coordinator, interviewed Caroline Worra and Sandra Piques Eddy, who played Fiordiligi and Dorabella, respectively, as well as Sir Thomas Allen, the production’s Don Alfonso and stage director. 

Sandra Piques Eddy, Sir Thomas Allen, and Caroline Worra. Photo: Eric Antoniou.

Sir Thomas, we wanted to start off right away with one of the questions from our audience, “How do you deal with the acting problem of four people who know each other so well suddenly not recognizing each other?”
It’s what they call acting. I think Olivier famously said to Dustin Hoffman, who spent about six weeks on the street living to find out what it’s like to be rough, said, “Why don’t you try acting, darling?” And so we do a bit of that up here. Of course… you do get to know one another very well, but you start from scratch. We’re playing a play here; it’s not real life, although it feels like it at times. But it’s pretend and we’re just children basically. I’m a very big child. And that’s what we all do.

In this production you are acting but are also the director. What has that experience been like, wearing both hats?

It’s been very, very interesting. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it and I thought, well this will be a voyage of discovery. But it’s much more difficult than I’d ever imagined because I stage things and then sit on the stage and I have no idea what’s going on behind me. They may be misbehaving really badly but I’m not really sure. … [Y]ou really need a backward-looking mirror, like a car, to check on what’s going on around you. But it’s quite complicated and I have to make a decision during rehearsals either to wear one hat or the other, but ideally not both at the same time.

Once the performances have started do you find yourself tempted to try to tweak the performance at all, or do you put it away?

I’ve just been doing it [indicating backstage]. I can’t stop myself. I see things and basically it’s settled and we’re finding our natural way into it, but there are one or two moments that I see every now and then.

Do you have a favorite scene in the opera?

It’s very short, and it’s coming up shortly in the second act, I suppose. The trio, of course, is wonderful – somehow time stands still when you’re up there and you sing this wonderful trio about gentle breezes. But the moment of, it seems contradictory, this, to put this four singers onstage and say that the favorite moment for you is when they don’t say anything at all. Total silence. You’ll see what I mean. I hope.

Don Alfonso has become a signature role of yours. Could you tell us what you like most about him?

At this stage what I like most about it is that I spend most of the time being silent and watching everybody else work. And it’s always been like that actually, come to think. From the time that anyone sets foot on stage as Alfonso, of course, you never stop working. If you’re on stage and not singing ,you’re pulling strings, invisible ones maybe, but you’re in control of the situation. And that’s a skill that… I’ve learned quietly along the way over a long period of time and it’s a fascinating piece and it continues to fascinate me because it is a work of great, great genius.

BLO would like to thank everyone who participated in this BLO Exposed event and for continuing the conversation with us post-performance here and on our social media pages! To have your questions featured here in the future, join us at the Wednesday night performance of The Flying Dutchman for BLO Exposed.

BLO Exposed (Part 1): Caroline Worra & Sandra Piques Eddy Answer Audience Questions

Boston Lyric Opera is in its second season of presenting BLO Exposed. This intermission conversation series gives audience members a behind-the-scenes look into each production and invites YOU, its audience, to ask questions through social media during our Wednesday night productions at the Shubert Theatre. For BLO’s recent production of Così Fan Tutte, Megan Cooper, Manager of Community Engagement, and Cecelia Allwein, Development Coordinator, interviewed Caroline Worra and Sandra Piques Eddy, who played Fiordiligi and Dorabella, as well as Sir Thomas Allen, the production’s Don Alfonso and stage director. 

Caroline Worra as Fiordiligi and Sandra Piques Eddy as Dorabella. Photo: Eric Antoniou.

So we have a few questions for you from the audience. The first one is, “What’s the highest note you’ve ever sung?”
Caroline: When I was in college, I was squeaking as high as I could go and I think, in whistle tones (those are those really crazy ones) I hit a high-A above a high-C. But normally I try to warm up to about a high-F. And in this show the highest note that I sing is a C, so that’s the range of high notes that I have.
Sandra: Mine isn’t as high as Caroline’s, but I usually try to warm up to a C. The highest I’ve ever sung in public I think was a C#; it was very quick.

Is there a union for professional opera singers?
Caroline: Yes, it’s called AGMA [American Guild of Musical Artists]. Once we get to this stage in our careers we have been members of AGMA for several years. When I was a young artist with the San Francisco program I was required to become a member at that time. So that’s sometimes a nice way to get young people into the union…, through young artist programs.
Sandra: I actually received my AGMA membership this in this very house [the Shubert Theatre] singing Kate Pinkerton [in Madama Butterfly] in 2000 when I did my opera debut here. So that’s where I got my acting card.

This is a question for Sandra: “What’s the hardest part of singing the role of Dorabella, and also what’s the most fun?”
Sandra: Oh it’s so much fun, I’m having a great time up here with Caroline and some old friends and now new friends too. Initially the hardest thing about this role, I think, is there’s one line in act two where I basically say, “Oh women, this is in our nature to do these kinds of things.” So at first it’s like, “Whoa, I don’t know, I think all the women in the opera house are just going to cringe a little bit,” but it’s very tongue in cheek and that was the hardest thing for me. But it’s so much fun just trying to keep everything happening as if it’s the first time it’s ever happened is a fun challenge and we’re having a ball up there.

Is this the first time you’ve played these roles and if it’s not how has playing the role changed as you’ve approached it different times and in different productions?
Sandra: This is my fourth time singing this role... This is the most effervescent I think that I’ve ever had the opportunity to play this character and the other characters around me are very fun and very light and airy and zippy. So I appreciate that in this kind of music.
Caroline: This is my first time getting to do this role although I’ve gotten to sing a lot of the arias or the duets and things in little scenes and programs. To actually finally get to sing this role is really a dream come true for me. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it before this point in my life because it sort of requires me to be in control and try and be the older sister. So it’s been a good challenge for me to try to encompass all the different qualities of Fiordiligi when sometimes I just want to go, “Ahh!” So she does need to be a little bit more in control and calm so that’s been a challenge for me.

“Are those wigs or are those your real hair?”
Caroline: Mine’s a wig. Hers is not.

“How long have you been singing?”
Sandra: I’ve been singing professionally since 2000. I actually got my first outside-of-school job at Boston Baroque, just down the street. And then here as well at the BLO with Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. So I’ve been singing professionally since 2000, but I started off as a music [education] major... I went to Boston Conservatory for my undergrad and I taught for three years and then I went back to get my Master’s at Boston University in voice.
Caroline: I started to do young artist programs in 1998 and before that, actually, my undergraduate work was in piano, so ever since ’98 I’ve kept wanting to keep giving [singing] a try and I loved it. I feel very lucky to be doing this.

BLO would like to thank everyone who participated in this BLO Exposed event and for continuing the conversation with us post-performance here and on our social media pages! To have your questions featured here in the future, join us at the Wednesday night performance of The Flying Dutchman for BLO Exposed. Stay tuned for part two of BLO Exposed’s look at Cosi Fan Tutte, featuring Sir Thomas Allen!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So Do We all: Phyllis Pancella talks piano tech, life and musical cuts!

Me with the "pastiera" (Neapolitan Easter pie) I made to celebrate our final room run
What do sex and technical rehearsals have in common?  Okay, this may take awhile.  Tech first.

You’ve just finished room rehearsals with a run-thru in front of a small audience of volunteers and crew heads.  There was laughter, there was applause.  There was a strong sense that the show is working, and a strong sense that what you are doing is worth watching and hearing.  You even find yourself taking a few chances, adding some details, thinking ahead, because you are finally secure enough to take in the whole picture and can think on your feet enough to bring it even more to life.  You celebrate with a bit of pie, and you try not to cause a rotator cuff injury patting yourself on the back on the way home.

Well, kiss that goodbye, laddie-o, and welcome to piano tech.

During Friday night’s Act 2 tech, things got so dicey that at one point my nose fell off.  The guys had to change clothes six times in five minutes.  Unidentified Flying Objects swooped in and out over our heads.  During the Act 1 tech the night before, we had to stop rehearsing altogether for over an hour while it was determined whether or not the sand we’d been working with was safe.  Oh, and by the way?  We’ve had to make a few more cuts to make sure we get in under the allotted 3-hour orchestra call, so when you get a minute, could you please re-stage your aria in its new, somewhat truncated version?  kthx.

I have joked that whatever ego I had left after being thrashed about by the opera business for a couple of decades was unceremoniously destroyed by the birth and subsequent language development of my son.  So you would think that the inevitable chaos and quicksand of tech wouldn’t faze me anymore.  But it does.  In just the same way that I still sit down with a new piece of music and wonder how I will ever be able to learn and memorize the damn thing, I still come away from a piano tech feeling like an idiot.  I have forgotten how to move, how to sing, how to act, how to be funny, and I will never, ever remember how to do it.  It’s a one step forward, 37 steps back kind of night.

“But I thought everything was going well!  I thought I knew where I stood, and how everything would turn out!”  This is a vulnerable time for a lot of folks in the opera world.  But when, in the second act of COSI, Guglielmo wistfully observes, “It’s a different world from the one we’d dreamed of,” he’s not speaking of tech rehearsals.  He’s speaking of sex and romance.  He could be speaking of parenting, the economy, home renovation.  The fact that we can go from security to panic overnight (sometimes more quickly still), from confidence to uncertainty, and from hubris to humiliation, simply comes with the territory of being human.  Ask Homer.  What I feel during the tech process or what the lovers go through in COSI is a distillation of what everyone goes through in life and love-------I just think of the process of producing a live performance of opera, and other moments of intense discombobulation, as “Life Concentrate.”  

A friend shared an illuminating quote the other day that I thought suited the COSI plot awfully well------the year it was written bringing home the universality of this truth.  But you can substitute intimacy, failure, or piano techs for sex, and realize just how integral to the human experience it is occasionally to have the rug pulled out from under you:

"Without sex, we would be dangerously invulnerable. We might believe we were not ridiculous. We wouldn't know rejection and humiliation so intimately. We could age respectably, get used to our privileges and think we understood what was going on. We might disappear into numbers and words alone. It is sex that creates a necessary havoc in the ordinary hierarchies of power, status, money and intelligence." ~ Alain de Botton on How to Think More About Sex (1936)

How best to consume “Life Concentrate”?  
I have learned that, if I dilute it with the longview, with compassion for others experiencing the same thing, and with trust that if I keep my feet on the ground and do what needs to be done (and let others do the same) even while the world seems to be crumbling around me, something delicious can come of it.  Oh, and I’m better off if I don’t try to drink it while patting myself on the back.  


Here are the answers to last week’s questionnaire.  While everyone is enjoying their current work very much, no one had any problem coming up with other interests they might turn into more full time occupations.  Well, except one:  Paul said his passionate hobby has always been opera and art song, and since he’s been lucky enough to make a living at his hobby, he’s never had a “back-up plan.”  He came up with his answer because it would give him a way of staying close to the work he loves, and close to the people who do it.

You can scroll down or go to “older post” to see the original names and occupations.  Here’s how they match up:  1C, 2F, 3E, 4K, 5I (which I made up based on previous conversations), 6H, 7J, 8D, 9M, 10L, 11A, 12G, 13B.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

You will never guess what COSI FAN TUTTE tech calls for...

When working in the performing arts we face all kinds of challenges: water onstage, fire, someone jumping off the set, snow... Well our COSI FAN TUTTE (you have heard it here first!!!) stage deck is covered in sand. Imagine the challenges that it entails: how do we keep it clean? how do we control it from not getting everywhere? etc

Well it has been decided that everyone who walks on the sand, except singers, has to wear booties to keep it clean. Here is a peek into our tech process with some of our team members rocking out the booties!!!

An infinite amount of gorgeous sand

SMs are rocking out the booties

Here is a closer look

Our lighting designer Marcus Dilliard and assistant LD Bailey Costa

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

So Do We all: Phyllis Pancella gives us a last look in the COSI FAN TUTTE rehearsal room

Yesterday was our last day in the rehearsal room.  Next stop:  the Schubert Theatre!  My feelings about this moment in a rehearsal process have changed so much over time.  It used to be that I couldn’t wait to get out of the rehearsal room----usually windowless and stale, usually some inconvenient differences in dimension or layout that mean we’ll have lots of adjusting to do once we’re onstage, always the wrong acoustic.  And, since the time in the rehearsal room is when we are feeling each other out as an ensemble and feeling the piece out as nuts & bolts stagecraft rather than art, when we do the most stumbling around, the most trial and error (emphasis on error), the most breaking and mending-----it can be a minefield of vulnerabilities.  Too awkward.  Used to be I couldn’t wait to get onstage, especially in front of an audience.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s a boatload of vulnerability that accompanies the raised stakes of being onstage.  But that’s the vulnerability that’s inevitably on the flipside of  power:  the power of impending live performance.  The one I’m talking about now is the vulnerability that is the other side of the intimacy coin.  We crave intimacy, but it can be rough to get past first impressions, past the stupid things we say when we’re trying to figure stuff out or remember things or experiment, past the tensions of a newly formed group of individuals who are simultaneously trying to make room for their autonomy, creativity, and priorities.  This is the time when everyone gets to hear the embarrassing grunts we each make in the midst of effort.  

But it’s this awkward intimacy, this often fraught connection in service of group creativity, that has become my favorite part of the work.  Is there anything quite like this kind of coming together of semi-strangers into a month-long Thanksgiving dinner?   Maybe a political campaign or the cruise ship “Triumph“.  But what we’re up to constructs and then dismantles itself many times a year for the duration of a career.  It is a very strange set-up, and creates a laboratory for studying human interaction.  It’s like a temporary zoo, in a way, in which animals from different territories and family structures are suddenly brought together into an artificial territory as a new family.  The first week, we’re basically sniffing each other and testing the zookeepers.  The second week, we’re working out how to share our food and play games together.  Just as we’re settling into a third week characterized by feelings of security and camaraderie, and we are finally figuring out how to maximize the advantages of our combined idiosyncrasies, we get put into a new territory.  (Uh….may be time for a call to the Metaphor Abuse Hotline….)

The rehearsal room period is when we have to learn about each other, because we all share the same space, the same bathrooms, the same lunch table.  We find odd little things in common:  Karen and I both like camping and reusing tiny containers; Stacey and I like pesto and Trader Joe‘s; Teri Jo and I like to make something out of nothing (prop garlic, anyone?);  Nicole and Caroline and I all enjoy thinking and talking about how the human mind works; and  Brett and I both see a 200 year-old stone wall and imagine the hands that lifted every stone.  This is where I discover that Matt is a genius at pie crust, that Paul could use “hirsute” in a sentence every day if he wanted to, that Caroline loves the color orange and will smile and mean it no matter how tired she is, that Sandy will give hugs to even the most awkward and bristly of colleagues, that David gets as excited about the Haymarket farmer's market as he does about hemiolas, that Tom makes quince jam from the fruit he grows in his front yard.

This is also where we find out who just got married, who’s about to get married, who did better the second time around, how different people feel about parenting, what it’s like trying to renovate a house while holding a family and international career together, what everyone’s amazingly colorful parents and siblings are like.  And this is where we get to observe process.  How early do people arrive to warm up?  Who dissects character before even learning the music, who has to learn some staging in order to completely memorize something, whose acting comes from their singing and for whom is it the other way around?  What do different people find funny?  Who finds discussions/arguments about text and diction (or comic timing, or vocal technique, or lunch) tedious or uncomfortable and who could do it all day?  How do we each define discipline, collaboration, respect, and experimentation, and what happens when those definitions clearly are at odds?  Oh, yes.  For a student of human interaction, and in the middle of a relationship story like COSI, that’s when it gets really interesting!

So, all of the people in the rehearsal room have come together for the same project, but  all come from different places and will move on to different lives and projects when this one is finished.  For me, the fascination is with the fact that this is absolutely the first and last time this particular combination of project and people will find themselves together in a single room----sort of like that amazing-but-unrepeatable meal you made from the weird combination of leftover beans & rice, dried up oranges, chicken breast, and an old gift jar of olive tapenade you had hanging around.  But things shift once we get onstage, and there is a reorganization of the temporary family.  We spend more of our time separate, preparing, girding our loins.  This shift is an exhilarating part of the process, culminating in the moment that the whole thing bursts forth from the stage into the laps of the audience.  But I’m glad we had our own private party for awhile, even if it was in a room with no windows and an acoustic that would make a lump of granite weep.  Hmmm….maybe I am ready to be in the theatre after all.


Just to give you an idea of the kinds of things we discover about each other in the rehearsal process, I went ahead and asked everyone who has been a regular part of this period a question that came up casually in several conversations:  What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?  I said they could respond as though they were starting over and couldn’t do opera, or as though they might make a lateral move in music and theatre, or perhaps as though they had all the money in the world but still wanted to work.  Want to try & guess who said what?

1. Paul Appleby                           A. Elementary school teacher, tour w/ Dr. Who
2. Sandra Piques Eddy                  B. Tornado chaser (meteorologist)
3. Matt Worth                            C.  Opera director
4. Phyllis Pancella                        D.  Theatrical writer
5. Caroline Worra                        E.  ESPN play-by-play, or the ministry
6. Thomas Allen                          F.  Elementary school music teacher (chorus)
7. David Angus                            G.  Travel agent
8. Nicole Tongue                         H.  Carpentry, painting (pictures, not rooms)
9. Karen Oberthal                        I.  Research psychologist
10. Brett Hodgdon                       J.  Lighting designer, nature photographer
11. Teri Jo Fuson                        K.  Humanist chaplain
12. Stacey Salotto-Cristobal          L.  Research librarian
13. Rickelle Williams                    M.  Opera super

Answers in next post!

Worldwide Timeline of 1790

Ever wonder what the world was like in 1790? Here is a snapshot of major events around the world in the same year Mozart premiered Così Fan Tutte:

January 8th - 1st US President George Washington delivers 1st state of the union address

January 26th - Mozart's opera
Così Fan Tutte premieres at the Burg Theatre in Vienna

February 1st – US Supreme Court convenes for 1st time in NYC

February 4th – Louis XVI accepts the constitution drafted by French revolutionaries and declares to the National Assembly that he will maintain the new constitutional laws

March 22nd - Thomas Jefferson becomes the 1st US Secretary of State

March 27th - The modern shoelace is invented in England

April 17th – Ben Franklin dies in Philadelphia at the age of 84 

July 3rd – In Paris, the Marquis of Condorcet proposed granting civil rights to women.

July 9 – Russo-Swedish War: The Swedish navy captured one third of the Russian fleet at the naval battle of Svensksund in the Baltic Sea.

July 17th – Economist Adam Smith, Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy, dies

August 1st - 1st US census (population of 3,939,214; 697,624 are slaves)

November 11th – Chrysanthemums are introduced into England from China

Unknown date – Emmanuel Kant published his "Critique of Judgement." His analysis of the nature of art and aesthetic experience proved to be a major influence on modern ideas

Unknown date – Beethoven composed his "Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II"

Unknown date – Pineapples are introduced to the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawaii)

Digging Deeper: Reading & Listening ideas for “Così Fan Tutte”

From the very plentiful expanse of books and CD recordings about COSI and Mozart, just  a few suggestions (and admittedly very personal favorites) for each:

MOZART the DRAMATIST by Brigid Brophy 
Written in 1964 and revised in 1980
Published in paperback by Libris in 1998
The subtitle of this important and influential  book,  "The value of his operas to him, to his age and to us" shows much of the intent of this study. An emphasis is placed on a Freudian view of the operas (she is the author of an excellent study of Freud and literature- BLACK SHIP TO HELL - 1962) as well as being, in part, a feminist critique. It is a very personal, rather idiosyncratic, sharply written and compelling view of Mozart. It thus reflects the  intriguing complexity of the author herself. Brophy is an acclaimed and somewhat controversial  novelist, a serious  literary critic, a political activist, and a crusader for the rights of authors. She died of multiple  sclerosis in 1995 having lived with - and movingly  written about - the disease for 14 years.

MOZART and the ENLIGHTENMENT by Nichols Till   
Published by  W W Norton and Co. paperback edition 1995
Again a subtitle "Truth, Virtue and Beauty  in Mozart's Operas"  tells much.  Till sets the operas in their social, political, biographical, psychological contexts, examines the dramatic emergence of a modern society in 18th century Europe and reappraises the history and meaning of the Enlightenment and Mozart's role within it. Erudite, illuminating and eminently readable, it is "A dazzling tapestry"  [London Times Literary Supplement].

Conducted by Rene Jacobs 
Concerto Koln, Harmonia Mundi recording  1998
Rene Jacobs' series of Mozart  opera recordings have stirred up controversy, extravagant praise, and serious  critical venom. At their best (and I think his FIGARO  heads the list) they are vital, theatrical, bold, risk taking  - and COSI is an excellent example of these qualities. Not populated  with stars in the sense of other COSIs  out there (Fleming, Ti Kawana, von Otter, Schwarzkopf, Ludwig - to mention only the ladies) his cast works with him and the period orchestra to bring to astonishing  life the incomparable score. The accompanying booklet is rich in essays and a fascinating interview with Jacobs.

Conducted by Charles Mackerras 
Orchestra of the Enlightenment 
Recorded by Chandos
This recording stands out for several reasons. It is sung in English - and in the English version that BLO is using. (Although as I have been receiving notes from rehearsal I see  there have been many changes in words as the singers worked their way into the parts and made the text their own) Also the role of Don Alfonso is elegantly sung by Tom Allen (who of course is directing the BLO COSI  as well). In this recording, Mackerras is a fine Mozartian, the cast made up of top English singers in good form  (Janice Watson, Diane Montague,Toby Spence, Christopher Maltman) and the result is eminently enjoyable. Like the Jacobs  CD above there is an excellent introductory essay and a illuminating interview with the conductor. 

~Dr. Von Lyric

Monday, March 4, 2013

So Do We all: Sandra Eddy takes us on a photographic journey of her time at BLO

Ok... This makes up for the cold weather.
Bea (my daughter) doing the nasally dottore voice.
Guglielmo and Dorabella
Beautiful Boston under snow

Who, What, Where, When (a little background on COSI)

January 26th Burgtheater Vienna
UK:   May 9, 1811 His Majesty’s Theater, London
US:   March 1922 Metropolitan Opera , New York
The premiere (conducted by the composer)  featured the librettist’s (Lorenzo da Ponte - frequent collaborator with  Mozart  - FIGARO and DON GIOVANNI) current mistress (as a cleric forbidden to marry, da Ponte had several), Adriana Ferraresi del Bene (whom da Ponte very ungallantly called “his misfortune”)  as Fiordiligi . The Don Alfonso was Mozart’s first Dr Bartolo and Commendatore, the Despina his first Cherubino and Guglielmo his first Figaro. It was a fair success.

The original libretto was called by Da  Ponte (recalling Moliere or Marivaux) “LA SCUOLA DEGLI AMANTI ( “The School for Lovers”); Mozart gave it its title of COSI FAN TUTTE (the words which had appeared  in the Act 1 trio from FIGARO). Its sources are varied. Legend has it that the plot idea  was given to Da Ponte by the Emperor, Joseph II  who had read of a similarly scandalous  situation in a newspaper article. But the theme of lovers testing fidelity by the use of a disguise and often incorporating a wager of some sort went back to Greek mythology, Ovid’s METAMORPHOSES, Shakespeare (CYMBELINE), Boccaccio and more importantly for Da Ponte Ariosto’s brilliant 1532 epic poem ORLANDO FURIOSO (incidentally the source for many of Handel’s most well-known pieces). Many of the names in the opera come from Ariosto. There is evidence that Da Ponte had first offered his libretto to Salieri who set a little bit of it before deciding that the text was “unworthy of musical invention.”

After its premiere and the revival in Vienna in 1794 and several subsequent  performances in opera houses in Germany, and in Prague and Amsterdam,  COSI seemed to drop out of favor. Beethoven considered it (particularly its libretto) “immoral and trivial” and totally unworthy of Mozart’s genius (He also deeply disapproved of GIOVANNI). It was drastically cut, mutilated, adapted, bowdlerized, changed wholesale- all in the interest of saving the piece from  its shockingly  indecent libretto and to salvage  Mozart’s “divine” music - or as one critic wrote “a mighty endeavor to save Mozart’s inspired score  which dragged behind it Da Ponte’s contemptible libretto like a convict’s iron  ball and chain.” Whole new librettos were introduced  - in Paris a new text  (by the librettists of FAUST ) based on Shakespeare’s LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST was attempted. As late as 1909 in Dresden the music was grafted onto an adaption from a play by Calderon

But from 1897 on a number of major conductors and productions tried to return to what Mozart and da Ponte had actually created. Richard Strauss in Munich, Gustav Mahler in Vienna , Thomas Beecham in London. Perhaps the most influential being the Fritz Busch - Carl Ebert 1934 staging at the newly opened Glyndebourne Festival (which led to the opera’s first recording) and now in many commentator’s or critic’s  view COSI emerged as Mozart’s supreme operatic achievement . The French composer Reynaldo Hahn wrote “I swear to you that GIOVANNI and FIGARO are the work of an amateur compared to COSI.”

 "This is Mozart’s most unreal opera - confined to a small space that might as well be Don Alfonso’s dreaming head. People behave in ways...that defy logic. Yet for the same reason COSI is Mozart’s most realistic opera, [it is also] his most mature, provocative and demanding. It is an astute study of human desires. The dreaming head may as well be a laboratory."

The US premiere of COSI took place at the Metropolitan Opera 132 years after the first performance at the Vienna Burgtheater. The conductor was Artur Bodansky, the design (which featured the novelty (at least at the Met) of a revolving stage was by Joseph Urban. It was a cautious success  - the New York Times called it “a notable event.” The cast was distinguished including Florence Easton as Fiordiligi, Lucrezia Bori as Despina, Giuseppi de Luca as Guglielmo and Adamo Didur as Alfonso. It had eleven performances in the course of the next three seasons. An important and highly successful revival occurred in the 1951-52 season directed by the noted American actor Alfred Lunt and starring Eleanor Steber, Blanche Thebom, Patrice Munsel and Richard Tucker with Fritz Stiedry conducting.  (A fascinating and quite compelling CD  recording remains as a testament to the theatrical vitality of this production) It was sung in an English translation by Ruth and Thomas Martin.