Popehat Goes To The Opera: Così fan tutte

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28 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    Ken, are you a hive mind or a particularly chatty colony of termites? Just how the blazes do you find the time to write so much good stuff and perform that legal advocacy and raise a whoop of kids and still have time over to listen to (and think about) some opera? Is there some performance-enhancing drug the rest of us should check in the spam folder for?

    (oh, and that was a bloody interesting post – may yet goad me into broadening musical horizons)

  2. Anony Mouse says:

    Best explination of recitative I've ever read. Thank you.

  3. Sasha says:

    Nicely done! Thank you Ken.

    Albanians, Turks, Wallachians, it doesn't matter: the "funny foreign people with weird costumes and facial hair" meme is universal no matter what it's called.
    The late Jerry Hadley was the best Gugliemo I ever heard.

    Also: normally I am an original-language purist, but because of the general silliness of the libretto and plot, Così suffers less from translation into English than most operas do.

  4. Stephen H says:

    Cosi's okay, but Figaro is more fun to perform.

    (I must also claim to have been quite statuesque in act 2 of Don Giovanni).

  5. Spacemanmatt says:

    When I hear the Pagliacci, I get all itchy and scratchy

  6. Clark says:

    Most people spend some of their time being irritable political cranks with crazy theories.

    Ken doesn't – he outsources that to me and Patrick, leaving him more time for things like opera and child raising.

  7. Quiet Lurcker says:

    @Ken White —

    Fred is the tenor, Bill is the baritone, and Don Alfonso is the antagonist

    A one-liner is worthy of Anna Russell, in a fairly scholarly precis of the entire opera.

    I'm actually enjoying these opera commentaries.

    Were you by some odd chance a musician in a previous life?

  8. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    For some reason, I prefer symphonies to opera. Most operas seem to be about people I would want to strangle, which isn't too surprising when you consider that this is also true of most novels and most films. Most popular songs, too, come to think of it.

    Still, I think this is a masterly explanation, especially in that it short circuits a lot of the usual highbrow bushwa. Opera was, in many respects, the popular music of its day. This is to its credit, but there are always some tiresome twits who have to make a mystery religion of High Art so that they can lord it over their lessees.

  9. Jim Tyre says:


    Most people spend some of their time being irritable political cranks with crazy theories.

    Ken doesn't – he outsources that to me and Patrick, leaving him more time for things like opera and child raising.

    THIS is how you return?!? What happened to you? Where have you been? Explain yourself!!

  10. John Beaty says:

    Have you seen Carmen yet? I went, took wife and 15-year-old daughter. Review: Not bad, not the best, Bardon as Carmen was as good as she gets, Pretty Yende (Micaela) stole the show with her aria. But whoever let her come out for bows with a floor-length cape (that she couldn't back up without tripping over) should be chastised firmly (this is opera, after all.) Love to hear your take on it.

  11. sorrykb says:

    "Couldn't even present a credible threat to the Belgians" is my new favorite insult.

  12. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for the piece, Ken. A good read.

    Just fyi, I think there is a minor typo

    He points out that plain-text implication — that male infidelity is expected and inexcusable

    I think you meant expected and excusable?

  13. En Passant says:

    Brilliant! And I have the sneaking suspicion that Mozart would be first to say that.

  14. Josh C says:

    This series is great.
    I am not an opera afficianado, but these might well be a gateway.

  15. M. Alan Thomas II says:

    Masked ball . . . could be a lot of things, but I'm hoping that you're hinting that the next one is Die Fledermaus.

  16. Sami says:

    I enjoyed this post tremendously.

  17. Ms. Cats Meow says:

    Very entertaining and informative. You make opera fun.

  18. Clark says:

    "Don" is …a title granted to … characters despite their lack of visible means of support and their tendency to act out badly when bored.

    Henceforth I will be known as "Don Clark".

  19. Maria says:

    Long-time lurker, first-time commenter. These are really lovely. I especially liked the introduction to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, whom I'd never listened to before (I'm enthusiastic but ignorant about opera). Would you write a post sometime on what sorts of voices you like, singers you keep returning to?

    As for terrifying sopranos — Callas at La Scala.
    My money's on Un Ballo in Maschera for the next instalment…

  20. Chris says:

    I spent several hours last night listening to a version of Cosi Fan Tutte I found on Spotify. It wasn't in English, and I didn't have the faintest idea what was going on most the time, but you did get a 23 year old to listen to an entire opera. So keep them coming, and I'll continue to broaden my horizons.

  21. Quiet Lurcker says:

    Masked ball . . . could be a lot of things, but I'm hoping that you're hinting that the next one is Die Fledermaus.

    What he said.

  22. Ken White says:

    My father's comment, verbatim:

    “musician in previous life?” Well, Kenneth did make an early musical mark by etching the outline of his butt on a piano bench using one or two of his organs filtered through some inadequate diapers. Otherwise his desultory keyboard and stringed instrument “education” managed only to deflate the family image and worth, alienate his dog and cause his mother to wonder why she chose to lose her virtue rather than deposit it in a nunnery. Despite this crappy fling at music making and the pain it inflicted on family members, Kenneth now presumes to publish critiques of musical masterpieces using the same scatological approach that characterized his early forays into the genre. Just because he is partnered with Brown doesn’t justify his elevation of the images suggested by that color, function and anatomy to describe masterpieces of western culture, whether it be music, dancing swans or French cuisine.

    Imagine the effect of such a worldwide publication on his poor elderly father who resides in a retirement home and must daily face disapproving wrinkled faces that have been cruising the internet in search of religious messages and gossip about other residents! “Are you related to Ken White who says all those naughty things on Popehat? I logged onto that site in search of comforting words and guidance from the Vatican, and what did I find? Well, I’ll just say if you have anything to do with that Ken White, then you’re not only going straight to hell but you’re no longer welcome in our Chapel, not even for the Saturday night Doris Day movies. We’re also going to have you assigned to a single table in the back corner of the dining room; and don’t you dare be seen mingling at the salad bar!”. I’m changing my name, going homeless and never want to hear Pope and Blanco in the same breath again.

    Apple, tree, etc.

  23. SarahW says:

    Oh that's where you get it.

  24. Kelly says:

    Albanians? You mean all white with pink eyes?

  25. Sharon says:

    One partial post was all it took. I <3 your dad.

  26. CWit says:

    I am a month behind in my rss reading, so I just got this and I am downloading this opera from iTunes. The album you have a picture of is from 1988; they have a 2000 remastered version, I think, but I had already clicked buy before I realized that they are possibly the same. Have you compared them? I think the 2000 remastered version sounds better, but you know how human bias goes.

    Thanks for the recommendation.