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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 7:03 pm | Fair 51º


Gerald Carpenter: Things Get ‘Così’ with UCSB Opera Theatre

The production, starting Friday, aims to 'update the action to contemporary California'

UCSB Opera Theatre’s spring-quarter offering will be a fully staged and costumed production of Wolfgang Mozart’s and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s comic extravaganza Così Fan Tutte, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on the UCSB campus.

The performance stars students of the Voice Program, with stage direction by Simon Williams, musical direction by Benjamin Brecher, sets and lighting by Mark Somerfield, and costumes by Stacie Logue. Richard Rintoul will conduct.

“The production will update the action to contemporary California, and it will both celebrate and question the certainties upon which many of us base our lives,” Williams says.

It remains to be seen whether the aristocratic milieu of a Mozart opera buffa — with its lecherous counts, virtuous ladies, love-struck cavalry lieutenants, and crafty, devious servants — can be coherently updated to be “relevant” in the age of iPods and HIV. Fortunately, so long as they get the music right, the rest doesn’t really matter.

The three Italian operas that Mozart composed upon libretti by Da Ponte — Don Giovanni, La Nozze di Figaro and Così Fan Tutte — are permanently enshrined in the Pantheon housing the greatest operas ever written. Despite obvious similarities, each is very different from the other two, and one’s individual preference can be justified on more grounds than simply idiosyncratic taste.

In terms of story and attitude, Così is by far the most absurd and the most cynical — the title translates as “thus do they all” or “so does everybody” — and for these reasons, many serious-minded music lovers are uncomfortable about granting it the lofty position of the other two. Yet, those for whom only the music counts have ample cause for considering Così the richest of the three.

For one thing, it is full of glorious ensembles — duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, even choruses — and the harmonies compete with each other in sublimity. For another, no matter how ironic the text of a love song, Mozart’s music makes you feel the love, not the irony.

Intellectually and philosophically, Don Giovanni takes the prize; socially and politically, Figaro trumps them all. But for a veritable flood of joyous, intoxicating sound, you can hardly beat Così Fan Tutte.

Tickets, sold only at the door, are $25 for general admission and $15 for students.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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