Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte
Directed by Madeleine F. Bersin '14
Music Directed by Jake H. Wilder-Smith '16
Produced by David C. Manella '14 and Simon A. de Carvalho '14
February 5 to February 9
For the first time in its 21-year history, Dunster House Opera is venturing outside of the Dunster dining hall and into Agassiz Theater. Its production of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte”— which translates to “women are like that”— features a unique interpretation of Mozart's comedic plot about two young men who attempt to seduce each other's fiancées. While the original opera is set in the 18th century and written in Italian, director Madeleine F. Bersin '14 has opted to set the opera in 1960s America using an English translation.
"I love this opera, but I feel like you can't do it unless you comment on its problematic aspects," Bersin says. "This way, the sexism becomes more of a joke—it's a way to make a comment on gender without rehashing sexist ways of thinking about gender and society. It's also a lot of fun."
In addition to changes to the setting and costumes, the production team also used a 20th-century English translation of the lyrics, which they supplemented with passages newly translated by Stewart N. Kramer '12, a former director of the DHO."The new librettos are about making the language more modern and helping it fit the music better," says music director Jake H. Wilder-Smith '16. While these changes help to update the play, Wilder-Smith has also chosen to use a harpsichord, an unusual instrument in the context of the original score, which has been tuned to complement the singers while retaining the original sound of Mozart’s instrumentation.
Chorus member Charlotte L. McKechnie '15 says the modern production brings out the comedy in Mozart's storyline. "This is a great show for people who are new to opera. It's a high-caliber production but at the same time completely approachable," she says. "People sometimes think of opera and picture big women in Viking hats— this is a beautiful set, it’s funny, it’s in English, so it's anything but that!"
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A New Universe for "Eurydice"“It takes something that everyone is familiar with and puts a twist on it. It’s not what you expect,” Bersin says. “It’s kind of an American take on this in a big way…. There’s something very ‘at home’ about this version.”
In Boston, On Broadway
"Così fan tutte" Hits a High NoteThough the Dunster House Opera production is not without its pacing problems, director Madeleine F. Bersin ’14 injects a sense of humor into an unpalatable plotline, fraught with sexist and misogynistic themes, to create an amusing adaptation with ironically humorous directorial choices and great caricatural performances from the actors.