A post that is kind of about Malin Hartelius

So, the other day I came across (never mind how) a comment that was appended to a review of that Zurich production of Cosi fan tutte where Fiordiligi bites it in the last two minutes. The review was on this website that had to do with Cleveland, Ohio, because — as it turns out — the orchestra for that particular Zurich performance was the Cleveland Orchestra. I have never been to Ohio, but the evidence suggests that they are no slouches in Cleveland, as far as orchestras go.

The commenter was furious with the concept of the production. The ‘zinger’ at the end (at least, I suspect it was intended to be a ‘zinger’) was that this type of production was the equivalent of “painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.”

This comment cracked me up. I mean, for one thing, Fiordiligi isn’t dead. Not in any permanent sense. She was never alive to begin with: this is the genius of theater, no?
Malin Hartelius as Fiordiligi

Mozart’s opera is not so fragile that one dead Fiordiligi is going to spoil it for everyone, forever. And, given that a significant amount of the plot of that opera involves false moustaches — well, let us just say that the conceptual problems wrapped up in that comment operate on several levels at once.

It put me in mind of a comment someone made on a video I put up (because I liked it) of the “Eboli’s Dream” ballet from that one production of Don Carlos. An individual named Edward saw it and disliked it immensely – he called it “vulgarity.”

There seems to be a certain flavor of opera fan who really hates this kind of thing. I am not sure why. It reads to me as if killing poor Fiordiligi (what do you call someone named Fiordiligi for short? Fiori? Didi?) offends some people on a sort of . . .basic decorum level. They find it both annoying and a little bit embarrassing. It’s as though if certain boundaries are not set, no one is going to take music seriously.

It is probably unfair of me, however, to mock Edward and the author of the Cleveland Zinger. I imagine there are things that you could do to Mozart’s operas that I would have that very same reaction to, although I can’t right now think of what those things would be.

4 thoughts on “A post that is kind of about Malin Hartelius

  1. . Hi Earworm,

    thank you for your very interesting blogs! I found your site recently and have been reading also the previous ones!

    I agree with you about the robustness of Mozart (and other opera composers), and while I don’t always agree or understand all the ideas of Regietheater it is always better to try new things than to stick with old worn-out stuff. However, in this example I found the end “joke” about Fiordiligi drinking the poison and kicking the bucket a bit unnecessary; it somehow takes something away from the ending that usually leave quite a lot things open.

    Juha

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    1. Hi Juha,

      Fiordiligi’s death in that production is strange, to be sure. When I saw it for the first time, I was startled by it. As you say, this opera works best when the ending is left open and ambiguous. But I think what that poisoning does is remind the audience how strange a lot of the foregoing story is — it adds a sharpness to it that I like. It’s as if the director is saying at the end: ‘yes, it looks as if things are all fine now — but are they really?’ Fiordiligi’s death prevents the ending from being happy and leaves all the characters surprised and confused. In this way, it’s similar to other productions that don’t kill anyone but nevertheless end with all four of them looking at each other and thinking ‘what did we just do?’

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  2. I watched the video today and I found the ending bizarre. I thought it was supposed to be a happy ending of sorts. I think it was done to be funny in a dark comedic way, yet it fell flat on me, much like Fiordiligi did on the floor. Maybe the director is from the old school of opera, where tragic is best and a dead body at the end more dramatic.

    It was out of place for sure. I am glad someone wrote about it here.

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    1. That ending is definitely out of place – I guess the question it leads the audience to ask is whether it’s out of place in an interesting way, or whether it’s just the director messing with the story for no real reason. I haven’t watched this DVD in a while, but what I remember thinking is that it made a certain sort of sense. It undercut a lot of the comedy in the opera and made me wonder whether the story is really as funny as it usually seems.

      Whether that is a good idea, or a useful idea on the director’s part, though, is another question.

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