As far as most operas go, Flight is exceedingly young. Only eighteen years old, Dove’s first opera is considerably younger than most members of the audience—this is not the case for, say, a Mozart classic. Commissioned by the Glyndebourne Opera, Flight premiered to the world on September 24, 1998 with the company’s touring opera. Its professional (non-touring) premiere was held the following year on the mainstage of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. On June 8, 2003 Flight made its first appearance in the U.S. with a new production at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and has since been staged in numerous American cities, including Boston, Pittsburgh, and Austin. This April 21 & 23, Flight will make its first appearance on the Omaha stage.
In this modern-age comic opera, Jonathan Dove’s tells the story of a group of disparate travelers who meet at an airport with shared departure plans but hidden personal desires. Their flights are canceled due to a violent electrical storm and they get trapped in an airport overnight. As the storm rages, facades are dropped, secrets are revealed, and anxiety levels rise. The lives of these one-time strangers turbulently collide as they shed inhibitions to confront personal desires, hopes, fear and each other…all with hilarious, touching and unexpected consequences.
Did You Know?
Born to two architects in the city of London on July 18, 1959, Jonathan Dove is a modern English composer of opera, as well as choral works, plays, films, and orchestral music. While his first experiences in music came from piano, organ, and viola performance, Dove’s official musical education in composition was pursued at the University of Cambridge under the tutelage of Robin Holloway. Following his time at the university, Dove worked as a freelance arranger of music and accompanist. These first professional experiences graced Dove with a great understanding of the vocal instrument and acoustic properties of the traditional opera house. These lessons have stayed with Dove to this very day, driving him into success with his breakthrough opera Flight, commissioned by the Glyndebourne Opera in 1998. Jonathan Dove has gone on to write more than twenty operatic works, as well as numerous choral pieces, songs, and instrumental music, including a number of orchestral works. With his work, Dove has committed himself to the task of community development. A number of innovative musical projects intentionally draw on youth and community choirs to supplement professional voices.
To learn more about Jonathan Dove, join us for our first Flight Boot Camp:
Flight Boot Camps
Part I: Jonathan Dove and Modern Opera: Why should we listen?
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 | 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Le Bouillon (1017 Howard St. Omaha, NE 68102)
According to Don Alfonso, “All women are like that”—that is, flighty, superficial, and incapable of fidelity. Inspired by his statement, two young men set out to test the loyalty of their lovers with some unforeseen results. Nicknamed “The School for Lovers” by its composer and librettist, Così fan tutte will keep audiences reflecting, second-guessing, and laughing the whole night through.
Many great operas began as great disasters. The ever popular Madama Butterfly was poorly received at its premiere, and the inaugural performance of the comic classic The Barber of Seville was a disastrous failure. This was not the case with Così fan tutte. The Mozart classic received general notes of praise when it opened at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790. Unfortunately the opera saw only five performances at this time, as its run was cut short by the death of Emperor Joseph II, and the court was obliged to put aside leisurely activities such as theatrical performances for the sake of ceremonial mourning. Although the opera saw a handful of other performances throughout Europe at this time, it was not until 1922 that Così fan tutte crossed the sea for its American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera. The first Omaha staging of Così fan tutte occurred during the 1996-97 season—the current Opera Omaha production will mark the second time the opera has been performed before local audiences.
Leave it to the Critics:
Now one of the most frequently performed operas around the globe, Così fan tutte didn’t always enjoy a steady stream of good reviews. In fact, the opera only began to acquire its modern state of popularity following the conclusion of World War II in 1945. Nor was the opera frowned upon when it premiered in Vienna during the late 18th century; so what happened? Well, it seems that sensibilities in Europe during this century were much more liberal than they would be later on. Where once audiences had shown no qualms about a production examining infidelity and the fickle nature of young love, in the 19th and early 20th century these topics came to be considered vulgar and immoral. Consequently, Così fan tutte was rarely performed during this period, expect in exceedingly bowdlerized forms.
Name that Tune:
Because we’re so familiar with the sound of Mozart’s music, its surface level elegance and beauty, it is easy to forget that it also functions to highlight the drama of the opera. In fact, if you listen closely, the melancholy, joyful, and vengeful emotions of the characters are all communicated with great specificity in the music. The arias of Despina, for example, make use of pastoral phrases, illustrating the housemaid’s common status. Compare this to the music surrounding the noble sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, which is drawn directly from the opera seria style at vogue in Vienna at the time of composition. These arias instead call for an incredible vocal range and ornamental orchestral flourishes. The clever Quintet “Di scrivermi ogni giorno” is on the surface a lovely example of an 18th century ‘addio’ piece, with two women bidding their lovers farewell in long elegant phrases, and the young men returning their sentiments in similarly moving lines. Look a little closer, however, and you will notice the contrast that the fifth singer, the skeptic Don Alfonso, brings to the ensemble. Indeed, you find him mocking the overwrought expressions of the young couples, ending the piece with a knowing chuckle.
Così fan tutte
Feb. 10 & 12, 2017
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Born in the Jewish ghetto of Venice in 1749, a young Lorenzo Da Ponte was baptized Roman Catholic in 1763, setting him on a path towards eventual priesthood. Indeed, he studied at the Ceneda Seminary with his brother before moving to the seminary at Portogruaro in 1769. It was here that the young Italian took his Minor Order in 1770 and acquired additional qualifications as a Professor of Literature. His ordination as a priest occurred in 1773, whereupon Da Ponte moved to Venice to act as a priest of the church of San Luca. As priesthood was not exactly a lucrative means of income at the time, Da Ponte made most of his living as a teacher of Latin, Italian, and French, and found some spare time to practice writing poetry in these languages. Unfortunately, Da Ponte’s tendency for freethinking—that is, questioning the doctrine of the Church—and his pursuit of an adulterous relationship brought an end to his time in Venice. At his trial in 1779, Da Ponte was accused of living in a brothel and charged with “public concubinage” as well as “abduction of a respectable woman”. The penalty for his charges was a fifteen-year banishment from the Venetian state.
Luckily for us, this exile eventually brought Da Ponte to the Viennese court in 1781, where Emperor Joseph II had just created an opera company. Despite having never before written a script or libretto, Da Ponte managed to successfully persuade the court to take him on as the “theatre poet”—in other words, as a librettist. It is here that Da Ponte collaborated with numerous composers from across Europe, namely Antonio Salieri, Martìn y Soler, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In addition to work on the libretto for Martìn y Soler’s 1787 opera Una cosa rara, Da Ponte composed the text for three of Mozart’s most highly regarded productions: The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Cosi fan tutte (1790). The overwhelming success of Da Ponte’s librettos during this period is often attributed to his newly refined ability at interweaving tragic and comic elements into a single, cohesive unit. Unfortunately, Da Ponte’s time in Vienna lasted only a decade, as the death of Joseph II in 1790 left the librettist without a patron in the court. This occasioned yet another uprooting of Da Ponte’s lifestyle, sending him in search of new employment. At first he set out for Paris, hoping to appeal to the Queen Marie Antoinette for whom he had obtained a letter of introduction from the late Emperor. Learning about the tumultuous political situation in France, however, Da Ponte wisely set his sights elsewhere. Arriving in England, he took work first as a grocer and Italian teacher, before finally gaining a post as a librettist at the King’s Theatre in London in 1803. This position would be short-lived.
Debt and bankruptcy prompted Da Ponte to immigrate to the United States in 1805. Once again he took on small jobs as a grocer, Italian tutor, and bookstore clerk before gaining a permanent and more esteemed position. Thanks to his friendship with Clement Clarke Moore (author, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) Da Ponte was introduced to Columbia College, where he gained an appointment as a Professor of Italian Language and Literature, the first Roman Catholic priest to gain admittance to the college’s faculty. Readily establishing himself in New York, Da Ponte made great efforts to introduce opera to the city. He produced a performance of Don Giovanni in 1825 and undertook a concert tour with his niece to promote the music of Gioachino Rossini. It wasn’t until 1828, at the age of seventy-nine, that Lorenzo Da Ponte became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Just a handful of years later, at the age of eighty-four, he founded the short-lived New York Opera Company, predecessor to the New York Academy of Music and New York Metropolitan Opera. In 1838 Lorenzo Da Ponte passed away in the city that, after many travels, had become his home. The old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street hosted an enormous funeral ceremony for the man who was a professor, poet, and priest.
The entire team behind Opera Omaha’s Così fan tutte would like to welcome you to experience Mozart’s timeless opera in a production that brings all of the passion and pathos of these classic characters to life in the present day.
Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s final collaboration (after their successes on Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni) was the only one of their works to have an original story. The opera is about two young couples whose love is tested after the men place a bet that their fiancées will remain faithful. First performed in 1790, only about one year before Mozart’s death, the opera is replete with everything we cherish about Mozart’s late comedies, and is particularly rich in brilliant aria and ensemble writing for the leading characters. Yet in spite of its musical sophistication, the opera fell out of favor for more than a century after Mozart’s death. Its subject matter was widely viewed as too risqué and immoral to be staged, and generations of audiences missed seeing and hearing one of the true masterpieces of late eighteenth-century opera. When the opera was performed, it was often given with so many cuts and rewrites required by the censors that it was hardly recognizable. Only in the middle of the twentieth century did the opera become a part of the standard repertoire in its original form, and it is now beloved by audiences around the world.
Why? One theory for the reason that the opera fell out of favor is that, like so much of Mozart’s mature art, this very special opera is a perfect synthesis of looking back and looking forward. Da Ponte’s libretto presents six fascinating characters, each one profound and complex in their emotional lives. The actions of the young lovers become so fascinating to us because each one is torn between listening to their mind and listening to their heart. Coming out of the age of the Enlightenment, a time when human reason and intellect were prized above all, and moving toward the Romantic era, with its much more subjective emotional world, these are people who transcend the stock character types from which they were derived. We hear it and feel it in every measure of Mozart’s music, which is simultaneously reaching back into the very best of the Classical style while pushing opera in bold new directions.
Who today does not understand what it feels like to be torn between what the heart tells us it wants and what the mind tells us is right? Who does not in some way empathize with a character that knows what they ought to do but ultimately gives into the forces of love? Mozart and Da Ponte created a perfect artistic statement about real, complex, confusing, deeply human love, perhaps so insightful that it took us mere humans more than a hundred years to catch up with them.
But we certainly have. And that is the reason why we have chosen to set our production in the present day, where we can witness these complex minds and hearts that are so very much like our own. Both couples (Fiordiligi and Guglielmo, Dorabella and Ferrando) believe they know exactly what love is. They are young people who think they have their lives under control and their futures together planned until everything is turned upside down. They go out to celebrate in classy, sophisticated nightclub, a hip type of place where couples go with their friends for a fun night out on the town. Don Alfonso is the proprietor and Despina is an old flame of his who now works in the club. It’s just the sort of environment where these couples can relax, let down their inhibitions, and make some decisions they might regret the next day. Too risqué? Immoral? Or all too true to life, in which all of these couples emerge a little less innocent, perhaps, but also a lot wiser about love.
We invite you to open your minds and hearts to one of Mozart’s greatest operas, to laugh and to cry, and hope that you, too, may come out of the experience just a bit wiser in the ways of love.
Così fan tutte
Feb. 10 & 12, 2017
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