The Malta Independent 24 February 2020, Monday

Women in the lead in Teatru Manoel’s production of Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’

Wednesday, 6 March 2019, 11:13 Last update: about 13 months ago

With Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti, the Manoel Theatre concludes the brilliant opera trilogy of Le Nozze Di Figaro (produced in 2017) and Don Giovanni (produced in 2018) resulting from the collaboration between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte.

The opera features a stellar cast of top local and foreign opera singers: Christian Bowers as Guglielmo, Paul Putnins as Don Alfonso, Claire Debono as Despina, Jazmin Black Grollemund as Fiordiligi, Helen Sherman as Dorabella and Nico Darmanin as Ferrando. Accompanied by The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and directed by the renowned Philip Walsh.

Artistic director Kenneth Zammit Tabona: “Through Jack we introduced a more cutting-edge type of operatic production than we were used to during these last few years. With more or less the same casts give or take a few, the three Mozart-Da Pontes have changed public perception of how local opera can be produced and I am very happy to be part of an initiative that makes such an incredibly beautiful genre relevant and meaningful to a 21st century audience.”

This Così fan tutte will again be a daring and exciting production with Jack Furness as director and designer who cleverly captures all elements of this most popular opera.


We sat down with the director and dived into the story and the staging, a story that certainly is relevant today.

Jack Furness: “I think what is remarkable about the collaboration between Mozart and his librettist Da Ponte across three operas is how fiercely honest they were about the relationship between sex and power. This is something that is still massively with us today. Da Ponte and Mozart are enlightenment artists, reorganising society on more rational grounds and we are still living with the effects of that reorganisation. There are still people that abuse positions of power for sexual conquest. And there are still all these things that Mozart and Da Ponte are writing about: abusive relationships, infidelity, people who kind of let go of all moral compasses and spiral into a place of psycho-sexual depravity.”


To stage this one has to find a way of telling a story that is making sense of the main themes and concerns of the piece and also to tell the story as clearly as possible for an audience today.  Looking for that angle brought Jack back to the 1950s. 

Jack Furness: “I hit on this 1950s military research centre. A sort of slightly scientific experiment kind of world where you feel like Don Alfonso is trying to boil down human behaviour to a set of equations. This is like the game theorists back then in America who were trying to predict what Russia would do in nuclear scenarios. Thus, the world we are in for this production is this kind of paranoia and fear of those strategic ways of thinking. Call it a claustrophobic paranoid world."


In this setting a dizzying game of infidelity and deception takes place. It is a test of fidelity of the two women. What happens at the end is that Don Alfonso tells the lovers that they should marry with their respective girl friends in a more honest way, knowing what they know now after the test.

Jack Furness: “A lot of directors have rassled with this in different ways. Some have them not getting together at all. Some people have the couples swapped. Some have them get together, but then have a note of uncertainty at the end. My take on this is that what Mozart and Da Ponte actually put down on the page is inconclusive. It does not really specify who ends up with whom. You are more left at a kind of cliffhanger edge of possibility of what might happen. There could be some pairings there where they make a go of having a real relationship that is based on honesty rather than on preconceived ideas about what a relationship should be like.”


So how does this production go about with the ending?

Jack Furness: “There is this moment when the girls actually sing something along the lines of ‘My love if this is true then I will make it up to you by being faithful and a really good lover for the rest of my days’, but it is actually not specified which woman sings that to which man. I know from experience that things feel different on the stage every night, with the audience in and the way that the cast behaves towards each other and so I hit on this idea of not actually identifying the end in advance, so the girls, based on how the plot has felt to them, how the evening has felt, how they got through it, what interactions they have had, can choose which man they sing that too.


Hence it is up to the women to decide how the opera will end and it will be different every night.

Jack Furness: “It keeps it fresh and it keeps that sense of the characters having to react to the crystallising emotional situation before our eyes as an audience. I think that is really interesting and I think that is actually more or less what Mozart and Da Ponte have put down.


This production is supported by Bank of Valletta. 

Come and experience for yourself what the ending will be on 4, 6, 8 and 10 March at 7.30pm at Teatru Manoel. Booking is from or by phoning on 2124 6389.

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