Mozart – Così fan tutte / Peter Sellars (3)

(Previous section here.)

So, the boys go off to war. (Well, to be specific, they go off to the men’s room, which, like the women’s room, has an eighteenth-century style bust stenciled onto the door to indicate the sex of the potential occupants; Sellars gets some milage out of framing various people in shots with one or the other stenciled bust when matters of gender are under discussion – but as far as the men’s room is concerned: having no personal knowledge of that strange and alien terrain, I will say no more about it. I’ve seen pictures of urinals on the internet, though.) Anyway, the boys go off to war.

“They’ve been called up” is the translation of the text, which makes not a whole hell of a lot of sense if it’s taken to mean they’ve been drafted – the US has not conscripted anyone since Vietnam, as far as I know. But this production is from 1990, and the Persian Gulf War began in the summer of 1990. This would seem to be the context for what the crowd carries during “bel vita militar” in Act I: army recruiting posters and anti-flag-burning literature.

But I do not think that this is Cosi fan tutte as political commentary. I am at a loss, though, as to what I do think it’s about. We’ve got a diner, a place where the two couples go to be served and waited on and fed, but which is not their space; the diner is in a town where some people are on vacation and others are not; we’ve got references to war and military recruiting. There’s a persistent theme of ‘people out of place’ in this. Certainly the switcheroo that the boys pull is also a case of people (very deliberately!) out of place. Is the idea that with relationships you can never really be sure where you are? (Or that you aren’t somewhere you’re not supposed to be?) This would certainly fit by way of contrast with all the emphasis on the characters going in and out of the men’s and women’s bathrooms, on opposite sides of the diner. As the bathrooms indicate, there are places/expectations (literally separate rooms!) for men and women. But once you start breaking the rules and putting yourself in places you are not supposed to be, you can get into trouble.

2 thoughts on “Mozart – Così fan tutte / Peter Sellars (3)

  1. There wasn’t a draft, but selective service registration was a part of the public discussion during the 80’s, so that’s probably where that comes from.


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