Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Two excellent ministers in new dresses

Finnish National Opera & Ballet

Once again I write about a delightful production seen on Operavision.eu.  This was from the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki, and was called COVID fan Tutte.  In a rather drastic nutshell, large bits of Cosi were updated to become relevant to the COVID pandemic, with bits of other Mozart operas included.  The premise was a production of Die Walküre cancelled because of the pandemic, and the opera house throws something together to employ the Wagnerian singers they've engaged. (OK, Ferrando is a stretch as a Wagnerian tenor, but this is opera.)

Following is a cast list.  All were fine singers:

DespinaKarita Mattila
FiordiligiMiina-Liisa Värelä
Don AlfonsoTommi Hakala
DorabellaJohanna Rusanen
FerrandoTuomas Katajala
GuglielmoWaltteri Torikka
Interface managerSanna-Kaisa Palo
MouzartYlermi Rajamaa
Covid virusNatasha Lommi
Sign language interpreterOuti Huusko
The Don Alfonso/Fiordiligi/Dorabella trio
Finnish National Opera & Ballet

Yes, Karita Mattila as Despina. She plays a world-famous singer trapped in her homeland and prevented from working because of border closures and cancellations. She learns the National Opera needs her and accepts without knowing the role. (The role was actually cut down a bit.) She had quite amusing bits, such as a doctor injecting the whole cast with an untested vaccine in the arsenic scene, and as an economist talking about the effects of lockdown--costumed not unlike Scrooge McDuck--instead of as the notary. 

Other bits that were really very funny:
  • Guglielmo singing Leporello's Catalogue Aria (Don Giovanni) to talk about infection rates by nation
  • A TV shopping network offering toilet paper at absurdly high prices (with Despina as hostess)
  • Fiordiligi and Dorabella were ministers (think US Cabinet members), and several quintets were presented as state briefings, complete with sign language interpreter. In fact, the sign language interpreter was the only cast member to succumb to the virus, after accepting a rose from the singer/dancer acting as the virus personified.
  • Dorabella's first act aria (in fact, this was presented as all one act) was all about trying to home/remote school her children and work and maintain her sanity all at once.
  • A Zoom-like meeting with a "Sing in" button

In fact, there were so many amusing moments, while the production still maintained a sense of story and kept my attention, that I have to call it a success. The updated libretto was by Minna Lindgren. The orchestra and chorus were, of course, very good. 

Conductor was a fellow you might have heard of--Esa-Pekka Salonen. There were some brilliant comedy bits between him, Mozart, and the Interface Manager, a speaking role who was supposedly organizing the whole thing.

I highly recommend viewing this video while it's still there.  It's available on the Operavision web site until late February, 2021.

A press briefing
Finnish National Opera & Ballet

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