Upstart New York City company deconstructs, then reconstructs an o+p+e+r+a in its version of show-and-tell
Gershwin Hotel photo
An assortment of singers, musicians and opera junkies began gathering at the self-consciously funky, budget-priced Gershwin Hotel, on Manhattan's E. 27th St., last night for a four-day dissection of Mozart's Così fan tutte, with all forms of live social media welcome.
Rather than present a fully ready director's vision of the opera, Operamission has broken it down into four parts, assembled an orchestra (via a call on Twitter and its blog three weeks ago) and a large pool of singers (all led by Operamission artistic director/conductor Jennifer Peterson), a dramaturg and scores.
The public has, for a $10 admission per night ($20 for a four-evening commitment), been invited to see the opera come to life spontaneously, as everyone discusses each scene, then performs it. The audience can tweet questions and comments on the fly, among other spontaneous gestures of interaction.
It's a fascinating idea, potentially the best kind of show-and-tell for people who really want to get inside a composer and librettist's minds, understand the challenges faced by an orchestra and appreciate the work that each singer needs to put in to make a stack of printed pages, and their accumulated patina of tradition, come to life.
It's a format that fits perfectly with the little-bit-of-this, little-bit-of-that bombardment of information and reactions we receive and generate every day.
But, ultimately, the real enjoyment and appreciation of any artform needs to include a mysterious layer of pixie-dust polish to hide the warts, to transform it from a mundane collection of parts into a work of art. We love the foie gras, not how it came to our plate; behold the sculpture rather than a sweaty man with a welding torch.
I wish I could be at the Gershwin Hotel this week. I also wish that, on Saturday night, the artists were able to reassemble in the lobby one final time, to present the opera from beginning to end, seamlessly, without a Tweet in sight.
Here are four very different interpretations, as seen through the sextet, "Alla bella Despinetta" (If you're going to watch only one, I suggest the last):
First, from a much-loved 2006 Glyndebourne production of Così (Luca Pisaron is Guglielmo, Miah Persson Fiordiligi, Topi Lehtipuu Ferrando, Anke Vondung Dorabella, Ainhoa Garmendia Despina and Nicolas Rivenq Don Alfonso):
Here are the young people from a June workshop at the University of West Florida:
Now, a little something Hair-like from Doris Dörrie's imagination, at the Berlin State Opera in 2002 (Fiordiligi is sung by Dorothea Röschmann, Dorabella: Katharina Kammerloher, Guglielmo: Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Ferrando: Werner Güra, Despina: Daniela Bruera, Don Alfonso: Roman Trekel):
Words fail for this Mexian film of the opera by Jesus Rodriguez, from 1996: