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Cosi Fan Tutte Response

Marcin Roncancio

Seeing Cosi Fan Tutte last week at the Metropolitan Opera was the best experience I’ve had in this class. It was an incredible end to an interesting semester of new things. As a result of taking this class I’ve participated in gallery talks and gone to a great variety of different performances that I would never have stumbled upon otherwise, and while all were great learning experiences I haven’t ever been so struck by one the way I was by this opera. I will definitely go back to see others, or even to see Cosi again. A large part of why I derived so much enjoyment from this performance was the little things Professor Jablonka had us do to prepare: looking at clips of the music and such online, listening to Mark Ringer on the opera, and getting to know more about it from the singer’s perspective from our meeting with Danielle Deniese.

Mr. Ringer’s talk about the music and all the parts about it, and the way it relates to the story of the opera really intrigued me. Although Cosi can sometimes be considered one of Mozart’s lesser operas, whether that means less popular or less in quality, I thought this production of it was really phenomenal. The intricacies of the music, and the way the composer could shift one’s perspective of the opera so subliminally blew me away. I would never have guessed that the pairings of the voices, a higher voice with a higher voice and a lower voice with a lower voice, would be used as a device in the telling of an opera, but of course, in Cosi these pairings seem to be completely intentional and inspire a lot of thought.

Meeting Ms. Deniese was a great opportunity. She was able to impress me on both the stage and in person. I loved hearing her perspective on her role of Despina, and the different ways she has played it in other productions of the same opera. Her antics on the stage, from her entrance to her exit, and her lines and personality really gave life to the opera.

Before going in to see the opera, I was afraid it would be boring, or completely incomprehensible, but I think that even without the subtitles the intentions of every singer could be read. I was at some points surprised by how much of the Italian I actually understood, in part because (as a native Spanish speaker) I had the subtitles set to Spanish, and decided to challenge myself to see how much of what was sung I could translate. Ultimately I found that simply watching the action was more than enough, but either way, this has definitely undone the myth that a new audience member cannot understand opera in my mind.

For a large part of the second half I sat with the subtitles turned off, because I wanted to really get the feel for the traditional opera, without the strangely anachronistic element of the subtitles. While I think that including them is a genius idea that probably makes opera feel much more accessible to the average audience member, it can also detract from the action of the opera. I feel as though opera is an art that celebrates the traditional ways of doing things in certain respects, the largest of which is probably that no microphones are used by opera singers. I don’t believe that anyone new to opera (including myself!) can truly grasp how difficult it must be, and how remarkable a talent it is to harness the power of the human voice in such a beautiful way.

Overall, this performance really raised my expectations, and I hope to see more like it in the future.

Cosi Fan Tutte – Matthew Taylor

I expected to hate Cosi Fan Tutte.  I had never seen an opera before, but I had a very bad preconception going in. I had always known opera to be hefty people singing really long notes to a crowd of old people.  The other Art Seminar classes also told me that the show was terrible.  I was walking into the MET with huge bias, and was dreading the show.  But despite my prejudice, I walked out of the intermission with a completely different perspective.  I thought the show was amazing, one of the best shows of the semester.  The cast, the set, and the comedy were all so vivid and humorous; I couldn’t believe it was written hundreds of years ago.  I never thought I’d say it, but Cosi Fan Tutte made me a fan of Opera.

I’m so grateful that the MET had subtitles in the backs of the seats.  If not, I would have missed out on an amazing script.  There was wit, cleverness, and depth; the three traits of any good libretto. The humor was relevant, which shocked me.  The dialogue was intelligent and engaging.   It was probably so absorbing because of how well it portrayed human emotion. When I heard that the Opera was theatrical, I thought that the constant singing would ruin the acting. But although the actors sang every line, I still thought they put on authentic and convincing performances.  Cosi Fan Tutte is such a masterful display of real human emotion; it’s no wonder that the show is still popular to this day.  The emotion that the cast puts into every note is still relatable for any audience.

The set was also a fantastic element of the Opera.  It was dynamic, well constructed, and the boats in the background were amazing.  The way Despina pulled the house onto the stage was not only hilarious, but it also highlighted the quality of the production crew.  This high quality production is part of what makes Cosi Fan Tutte so much more enjoyable than a performance like the Kathakali or Baroque. The magnitude of the show compels me to pay attention and take the show seriously, which helped me overcome my initial bias.

But what truly set Cosi Fan Tutte apart from anything I had ever seen before was the vocal performances of the cast.  Every singer was phenomenal; their voices were so loud and clear. Before I took my seat at the opera I looked up and saw just how huge the theatre was.  I then remembered that the singers didn’t use microphones.  Not knowing what to expect, I was blown away at the volume of their voices.  They were just as loud as any microphone could have been, and they sang with so much clarity in their voices that I almost understood them! I realized how hindering microphones really are to a vocal performance, and I was stunned at how natural and pure their voices were.

I haven’t been more surprised by any performance this entire semester.  I went from dreading Cosi Fan Tutte to loving it.  The opera was so well done, and the acting and singing were phenomenal.  On top of all these aspects, the comedy was fantastic and kept me interested.  Overall, I would say that Cosi Fan Tutte was three hours well spent.

Like many of my classmates, I was not completely sure what to expect from this experience. Never having been to opera before (or at least not one that I was old enough to appreciate), I felt there was just as much a chance that I would hate it as that I would love it. Mark’s talk was very interesting, and I think gave me a good idea of what to expect, but it did make me worry that, because I don’t really have a very trained ear for music, I would have a hard time really appreciating the opera. However, this turned out to not be the case at all. While actually at the opera, I found myself really caring about the plot and its strangely endearing (if utterly ridiculous, and occasionally morally disgusting) characters. It was good to know that even though it was a little harder for me to notice the more subtle changes in the music of the performance, I was still able to appreciate it on some level. The only thing I had a hard time with was understanding the difference made by a lack of microphone. Perhaps the problem is that I had never realized that that particular sound was the result of a performer singing without a microphone. With this knowledge, however, I was more impressed even than I usually am by the ability of these singers to project.

However, terrible as it may sound, the opera was not even my favorite part of the evening (though to be fair, that is saying a lot, as I greatly enjoyed Cosi Fan Tutte). Rather, the most exciting thing for me was just the opportunity to see a great opera at Lincoln Center. This was another one of those wonderful moments, much like our afternoon at the Woolworth Building, where I realized, and more fully appreciated, the fact that I am going to college in New York City, and am having a very different, and in my opinion far more rich, experience than that of my friends from home. This performance, more than any other our class has attended, truly made me appreciate just what this seminar has given me, and what both Macaulay and Hunter in general will give me in the next few years. It was, in short, a fantastic way to end a semester.

Cosi Fan Tutte -Kate

I saw a lot of operas when I was younger. However, because I was so young, I don’t remember much about them except having an opportunity to dress up. I’m really happy that I  had a chance to experience an Opera that I will finally remember.

One thing that I found extremely helpful was that we learned about Cosi Fan Tutte before actually seeing it. I thought it was interesting to learn about how Mozart used music to mimic the events going on in the play and the character’s emotions. I never realized how important the instrumental music is to the opera. Whenever I think of operas, I mostly think of the human voice as the main instrument. However, the class talk made me realize that the orchestral instruments also play a great role in telling the story and creating different atmospheres. Also, the talk in class brought up different issues and themes that the opera dealt with. This was helpful because it gave me something to consider while watching the events which occurred throughout the opera. I constantly found myself wondering whether the characters truly felt something or if they just believed they did.

Another thing that was really exciting, was the opportunity to attend the Q&A session with Danielle De Niese. It was amazing to see the stage and the dressing rooms. However, what I found even more amazing was how willing Danielle De Niese was to tell us about her experiences and answer any questions that people had. For some reason, I was always under the impression that opera singers would try to speak less or conserve their voice before a performance. However, Danielle De Niese never held back on any of her answers. Also, I found her story inspiring. I admire how she went after her dream job even thought it meant having to make some difficult sacrifices. In addition, she talked about how sometimes practicing the technical aspects of singing can get boring, but she does this anyway because she knows that in the end it will help her grow as a singer. I also admire this because people often want to do many things in life, but once they realize that these things actually require a lot of work, some of which is boring, they give up.  I liked the amount of commitment that Danielle De Niese has for her job. For example, she said that she went to Italy for a few months to study Italian every day. I thought this was interesting because it shows how much she truly wants to do her best. Overall, the Q&A session made me realize the importance of hard work and how it can help a person achieve anything they want.

The environment of the Metropolitan Opera made me forget about everything else that was going on in my life. The building itself was beautiful. I could not stop starring at the chandelier, which as one of the workers mentioned, was made from Swarovski crystals. Also, it was nice that everyone was dressed up and sipping on Champagne. It reminded me of how, when I was younger, my mom used to buy me water in one of those little glasses to make me feel more like an adult. When I was younger, I felt overwhelmed by the environment of being at an opera house. This still has not changed. However, my experience with Cosi Fan Tutte was extremely different from my experiences with opera as a child.

Unlike before, I appreciated Mozart’s music and the way it changed throughout the performance. I payed closer attention to these changes because of the lesson in class the day before. I noticed how sometimes the music felt more sincere. Also, the power of the human voice is indescribable. All of the singers propelled their voices so well that if they did have microphones they would have sounded too loud. One reason that I was so amazed by their powerful singing was because I was in my high school chorus. At one point, the chorus consisted of almost 100 voices, yet we still needed to use microphones in order to be heard over the music. The ability of the singers to sing in a way which allows their voices to travel so far, made me realize how much training they must have gone through and the amount of technique they have had to learn. Also, even when the singers had to sing softer, I could still clearly hear their voices, even though they had to sing over the instrumental music of the orchestra and their voices had to travel over the rows of people sitting in front of us. Singing soft, while still being heard over so many people, must require a lot of skill.

In addition, I loved the different set designs! They were another aspect, in addition to the music and voices, that made the performance beautiful and enjoyable to watch.

Cosi Fan Tutte!

By Darren Panicali

Before I arrived on the site of the Metropolitan Opera, I wasn’t sure that I would particularly enjoy Cosi Fan Tutte – operas were never really my thing; it was something about the singing of words over-elegantly and over-lavishly rather than just spitting them out or at least toning the classiness down. But I have to say, getting to the place changed my mind and made me reconsider: My goodness, that beautiful fountain outside, serene yet beaming with life, along with the ornate inside of the opera house made it all seem so surreal and fancy, as if I was in for a real treat. And that I was!

Mark Ringer’s lecture is a necessity to mention here, as only through his commentary and guidance was I able to see through the fog of my own bias against opera to find the true beauty of it. What struck me most from what he said was the relationship among the higher vocals and the lower vocals. I was so intrigued by the opposite vocals within the established couples and then the aligned vocals in the couples created by the ruse of Don Alfonso. It was just such an interesting plot twist that the mismatched couples were perfectly in sync in terms of their voices. From that point on, I took a deep interest in the inner workings of opera. I was fascinated when Ringer mentioned that the music seemed to be misogynistic but was actually ironically also mocking men in a similar light as women as the male characters were developed. And I loved how he painted music to be an active member of the play with the power to evoke so many different and colorful emotions – it has “all the variety of life in it” in Ringer’s own words.  During the actual opera itself, I would listen for the things he described, from the heartbeat-like staccato poundings to the smooth crescendos showing a shift in the mood, and I would never have perceived those things without Ringer’s help, so I am deeply grateful to him for helping me see something new and wonderful where once I believed there to only be boredom and drowsiness.

Let’s jump right into the opera now, shall we? I’d like to tackle the experience of hearing the performers’ voices without the aid of microphones, as that was definitely the first thing I noticed since we were instructed to observe it and I was actively looking for its significance right from the beginning. I realized that to sing opera is to display sheer power and grandeur. As I understand it, opera precedes technology. Not to say that singing and musicals and other performances did not do this as well, but I think opera enthusiasts and performers were proud of that – too proud (and perhaps too stubborn) to give in to the temptation of technology and enhanced hearing. There’s something surreal and previous about hearing a pure blast of energy emanating from a distant figure, almost as if the source is right next to you. And those vocalists must have been expertly trained, for the utter intensity of their lungs could shoot the music to the back and top of the room like a rocket to the moon – with the help of the amazing acoustics, of course. I think people believed it important to keep with custom and not lose something that sounds so good from years of practice in the tradition, much like wine tastes so good too with greater age. Is it a bad idea? I don’t think so. It’s kind of quaint and nice. And hey – it works, doesn’t it?

As for the specifics of Cosi Fan Tutte, I found some parts to be a little drawn out, but overall, I really enjoyed it. The characters were lively and played their roles spot-on – Despina was a veritable riot, – and all of the antics were just terrific. I applied everything I learned from Ringer to try to understand things better and ended up hearing so many different emotions as the story went on, and with the help of the translations I could better relate the raw emotions to the specific situations. The numerous backgrounds and stages were beautifully made, and that’s pretty significant coming from someone who used to design such things (haha!). I could really relate to those characters in each of the specific feelings they were portraying, from betrayal and disgust to joy and merriment, and it’s all because those men and women belting their hearts out did such an impressive job, especially with keeping their exhibiting brilliant vibrato consistent and smooth. It was just such a spectacular experience – one that I’ll not soon forget.

Agnieszka at The Met Opera

Every so often we find in literature a work that was written eerily ahead of its time. The opera Cosi Fan Tutte is certainly one of these. This was revealed to us during our class’s discussion with Opera Man Mark the day before seeing the show ourselves. Although Cosi Fan Tutte is a comic opera, it takes apart our notions of identity and relationships, laying bare the fragility of our lives. The two main female characters, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, were manipulated by the men they adamantly believed would never do anything to harm them. The manipulators, on the other hand, had their worlds shaken when they realized their fiances could fall in love with someone else in a day. And in the end, the lines of the “real relationships” had blurred for all four characters. In a day, what appeared to be strong relationships had unraveled and the characters found themselves in love with another. As Mark said, “No human is like a rock.” This disturbing realization is what made the original reception of the opera rather cold. But for all of its weighty message, the opera is a very beautiful one.
The music in the opera contained all of the melodic subtlety that is characteristic of Mozart. I grew up listening to classical music, as my mother is a musician, and whenever we were enjoying a particularly heartfelt line my mother would ask me to close my eyes to better hear the music. As the overture of Cosi Fan Tutte began, that is exactly what I did. It is quite an experience to let beautiful music wash over you in such a way. But because this was not a concert but an opera, I had to let go and pay attention to visuals as well. However the music never took a sideline. It would emphasize the lines, announce changes in mood, aid the telling of the story, but it was never merely a soundtrack. It was really something to watch a show driven by the music rather than the other way around.
The show itself was extremely impressive. I found myself especially in awe of the actress playing Despina. She was so small and young, and yet with her strong voice and stage presence she was really refreshing to watch. When reading the libretto I had imagined the maid Despina to be an jaded old woman, but Danielle de Niese breathed new life into this persona and made it completely her own.
Finally, I was completely blown away by the set. I deeply regretted not being able to join the backstage tour our class was invited to participate in. All of the sets were realistic and painstakingly perfect down to the smallest details. But realism is not everything is scenic design. The set must be effective as well. The scenery struck a perfect balance between ascetic beauty and functionality – there was never a moment when the cast was not in some way interacting with the set. It was never a static backdrop. And it was simply breathtaking. The world on stage was beautiful, varying, and convincing. As much as I enjoyed the music, acting, and storyline, I really do believe that my impression of the show was sealed by my impression of the set.
Cosi Fan Tutte was not my first opera but easily one of the most beautiful shows I have seen. I can only hope to see shows as well put together in every aspect as this one was.

Izaya’s Response to Cosi Fan Tutte

I have had some experience with operas. What I can say is that I had a more enjoyable experience with operas than with art museums before even seeing Cosi Fan Tutte. I can’t actually remember which operas I’ve seen but I was not as bored as I thought I’d be when I saw them. However, I was unaware of many things and did not take as much meaning from them as I did with Cosi Fan Tutte.

A huge help for making my experience with this opera more meaningful was Mark Ringer. He came in to our class a day before the show and explained so much that I most likely wouldn’t have learned on my own. For example, he gave the historical background of the opera, a character analysis, and a glimpse of what the music was like.

The opera was made in Vienna, Austria in 1790. Mozart composed the music and Lorenzo de Ponte wrote the script, or libretto. Mark told us that the opera was rather controversial at the time because of what it was saying about human nature-how inconstant and unsatisfied we are. Mozart’s beautiful music sort of juxtaposed with the disturbing message. There were six characters, four of which made up two supposedly happy, inseparable couples. Mark went into detail how Fiordiligi and Guglielmo were actually not a good match based on their voice types since Fiordiligi was a soprano (high pitch) and Guglielmo was a baritone (very low pitch). The same went for Dorabella and Ferrando since Dorabella was a mezzo-soprano (lower than soprano) and Ferrando was a tenor (higher than baritone). In fact, switching the couples would result in a better match. Furthermore, Mark went into detail how the characters with lower voice types were more realistic and down to earth whereas the characters with higher voice types were more pure and heavenly.  The tracks he played for us allowed me to see how different music conveys a different tone whether it be humorous, peaceful, active, or somber. Sometimes the music may hint at something the characters themselves do not know.

We were really fortunate to be able to see this opera at the Metropolitan Opera because it added to the already beautiful experience. The vast auditorium and design of the balconies was really impressive and made me think about how difficult it is to sing without the aid of a microphone to project one’s voice. I never thought about it too much but when the topic came up in class and Professor Jablonka said that it was heresy to use microphones in operas, I was quite astounded. Overall, the singing was great and I appreciated it very much. Not only because I was able to hear the singers, but because I could hear them in addition to enjoy them. The way they were able to control their voices and sing in harmony was just mesmerizing. There were many scenes in which several characters sang different lines together and you could never tell who stopped singing and who began. I found those segments to be very beautiful coupled with the orchestra’s music.

In addition to the beauty and grandiosity of the singing, I found the opera to be quite funny as well. The maid, Despina, was really funny especially when she was first introduced dragging the heavy scenery. Also, when she dressed up as different characters such as Dr. Mesmer. I also found the awkward scene where the disguised lovers were sitting next to the two sisters and just looking around and trying to start a conversation. I wasn’t expecting to laugh as much as I did but I’m glad this opera entertained me in so many ways.

In all, this opera was a great experience for several reasons. I had the chance to hear some useful background information, go to the Metropolitan Opera, hear Mozart’s pieces, listen to unaided beautiful singing, and laugh at funny scenes. This was probably the best and richest experience we’ve had in this seminar.

In truth, I had no clue whether I would enjoy the opera that we would be attending. I’ve never actually attended opera before so this experience was certainly a new one for me. However, my doubts soon disappeared after hearing Mark Ringer speak in front of the class about the opera that we were going to see. He was not only a very humorous and entertaining guest speaker, he touched on the idea of how the music of the orchestra and the changes in the tone of the opera singers can drastically affect the opera. Before, I was under the impression that all opera’s were basically the same, but now, I came to realize that music can play a very important part in an opera as a way to convey the true feelings of the characters in the opera.

Therefore, I came into the opera house with particular enthusiasm. I wanted to hear many of the things that Mark was talking about in Mozart’s arrangement of the orchestra and opera singer’s lines. It was slightly disappointing though that after the opera, I couldn’t notice many of the things that he did mention in class. However, I did notice that in the beginning, the music of the orchestra was very simple and very happy, which in Mark’s opinion, represented thoughtlessness and empty happiness of the characters. I noticed that the singers (pair of lovers) were oftentimes exaggerating their love for each other in their voices. However, in the conflicts that ensued, the music became a lot more minor (sad) at times, which reflected the change in the characters’ state of mind as they struggled to understand the true love that they were experiencing. As a result, their voices became a lot more genuine and while I couldn’t understand all of the words they were singing, many times, the opera singers managed to send chills down my spine. I marveled at how, even without a microphone, they could project their voices throughout the giant hall. As a result of watching the opera, I gained a better appreciation of the opera and of opera singers as a whole and really enjoyed the experience.

Cossi fan tutte-Anthony Margulies

For my first opera experience I can honestly say Cosi fan tutte was a lot better then what I was expecting. As a kid I grew up despising opera under the belief that it was for old people. As it turns out it is not. What I experienced at the Met Opera was unbelievable and outstanding. The drama was real, the story was real, and low and behold, at 18 years of age, I was very much entertained, and I’m not an old person.

Luckily, I was able to take a backstage tour, prior to the performance itself, with non other than the young star Danielle de Niese, who plays Despina. As part of the interview and tour, Niese informed us that she was the youngest star at the Met when they first signed her and that, in her humble opinion, she believes opera is the most rewarding and challenging performance art around. Based on what I saw, I’d have to agree. In many instances, the singers were in contorted positions, lying down, or simply off balance while singing, and yet they were able to naturally project their voices high into the rafters without assistance, a truly amazing feat.

Aside from just talking about opera, Niese also took us onto the stage and her dressing room. The stage at the Met was absolutely humbling in terms of size. You could easily fit whole apartment buildings back there and no one would ever know. They even have an elevator that goes down several stories to a secret floor where they can keep old set-pieces. In all, the size of the stage was so grand that I almost felt as if I was outside, the realistic tree setup for Cossi fan tutte added to this feeling as well. On the other hand though, Niese’s dressing room was quite cramped and small. I was very surprised and it was quite hot in there as well. I don’t know if it was because there were a lot of us or if that’s how it always is, regardless though, the dressing rooms seemed sub-par when compared with the granduer of the rest of the place. Overall though, the backstage tour was amazing.

As for the performance itself, It was amazing. Most amazing of all, however, was the actors abilities to project their voices in a way that doesn’t seem humanly possible and to volumes that are almost deafening. All of this was accomplished without any type of microphone or audio enhancer and yet it was clearer, louder and more realistic than any enhanced voice I’ve ever heard. It truly was remarkable to hear a human voice reach high notes, and pitches at extreme volumes, while the singers faces seemed nonchalant, as if to make it seem easy. On top of this, the set seemed so realistic at times that it actually had me guessing how they managed to make it look so real, despite the fact that I had seen it all backstage earlier on in the day.

Overall, the singing, the story, the set, and the whole experience (especially seeing all the rich people there) were all enriching and amazing. I will definitely be going back to the opera in the future, and I can honestly say I no longer despise it like I did as a child. Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte and Danielle de Niese both helped me to overcome my childhood prejudices against opera and instead embrace it as a truly wonderful performance art form.

Opera Response – Lidiya K

This was my second opera viewing and my second trip to the Metropolitan Opera. The opera house itself is just as glamorous as I remember, if not more. The only other time I had been to an opera was in the 5th grade as part of a class trip; it is needless to say that this experience was quite different. The two things I am very thankful for this time around are Mark Ringer and the English subtitles. Overall, I enjoyed our opera visit.

Mark Ringer’s visit was a whole separate pleasure. He has a very alive personality and is very knowledgeable on the music and inspiration behind Cosi Fan Tutte. His small dance numbers were also fairly memorable and had me giggling even during the actual opera when the tunes he was moving to were played. He warmed us up to the opera and helped make the experience easier to enjoy. When he played several of the ballots in class, I was able to focus more on the orchestra; while at the opera, I was more captivated by the powerful voices of the singers. I tried to catch how the music develops the characters, as Mr. Ringer had said, but had trouble finding that clear of a connection. Regardless, his visit was helpful and entertaining.

The other opera I had seen was Hamlet, but I found Cosi Fan Tutte more enjoyable. Cosi Fan Tutte is less serious and much more comical. The jokes were simple, but clever and effective. Some of the actions of the actors were also funny, and could be enjoyed without even reading the subtitles. I found the music to be more in the background than I expected. The voices of the performers were so strong that the music just faded, at times, in comparison. It is amazing that a single voice can soar through an entire auditorium without a microphone more powerfully than a full orchestra of instruments. Not only were the voices of the performers incredible, their acting was also very memorable. My favorite character is Despina. She contributed to the majority of the comedy and her solo ballots were pleasant to listen to.

I enjoyed the outfits wore the characters as well and in a way, they were reminiscent of the baroque dancing we had seen at the start of the semester. Cosi Fan Tutte was a good end to the performances we viewed in this course. I now feel that a lot of art forms are not so out of my reach as I had originally thought. Thanks to Mark Ringer, I was much less intimidated by the performance, having learned the background.

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