La scuola de’ gelosi
Dramma giocoso in two acts (1778/83)
Music by Antonio Salieri
Libretto by Caterino Mazzolà
In Italian with German surtitles
What an interesting production! Salieri’s La scuola de’ gelosi — as the name implied — was all about the evils of jealousy in a relationship, and this rendition showed all the bawdy complicatedness therein. The production team knew their modern audience, so they incorporated many, dare I say, not safe for the work place interactions. Flirtatious glances were thrown, advances were not-so-subtly made, and yes, genitals were touched. Some in the audience definitely felt a tad uncomfortable. (One gentleman joked to me in the bathroom about “what’s going on on the stage tonight” at intermission.)
If I had to pick one funny moment that stood out from all the rest, “Frauen haben immer Recht,” would be it. Throughout the opera, the couples were engaged in a series of taunts. One of these involved a door placard. The men began the game by writing that they are better and stronger (or words to that effect — I couldn’t get a clean view of the exact wording from my seat). In response, the women wrote over the text with their proclamation (“women are always right.”) Comically, this placard was later used by one of the male singers to cover himself when he was in a, let’s say, compromising position.
I really liked how much this group did with such a small stage. The production utilized swinging panels — the walls — to great effect. At the start of one hilarious scene, a repairman — alone on the stage — drilled into one of these panels. This made me laugh a lot.
One aspect of the performance that I didn’t quite get was the mute, perpetually-dancing woman. I think she had some kind of atmospheric relevance, but with all the other blunt humor, it got lost in the shuffle (I tended to forget that she was even there.).
The plot of this opera made me think of a cross between Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan tutte. Since Salieri and Mozart were roughly contemporaries, their cultural milieu evidently influenced these operas.
Speaking of this infamous pairing, I feel bad that Salieri’s reputation was so badly tarnished by Amadeus. There were many times tonight that I asked myself if I could distinguish Salieri from Mozart. The answer was oftentimes no; Salieri has his own merits which I’m glad this production chose to explore.
Another recurring thought swirling in my head was whether a production could get away with this level of bawdiness in The States. Without a doubt, The Met would never dream of producing something this blasphemous (Robert Carsen’s Der Rosenkavalier — complete with a rather risque third act — was met with quite a few boos in April.). It seems to me, then, that opera is given more creative license in Vienna. And, simultaneously, audiences more readily accept it (Tonight’s performance was thoroughly cheered.).
In regards to the music, I thought the harpsichordist and the singers maintained a cohesive dialogue. Their improvisations were pleasant and well-conceived. Overall, I thought the hall was perfect for the size of the performance. I truly wish that we could have more professional, smaller-scale opera companies in The States.
This show marked the end of my research in Vienna. Tschüss for now and bonjour Paris!