VovaLaVoce is webcasting an all-start Nozze tonight at 8pm here. Thomas Hampson is Count Almaviva, Kiri Te Kanawa the Countess, Dawn Upshaw is Susanna, Ferruccio Furlanetto is Figaro, Anne Sofie von Otter is Cherubino, Tatiana Troyanos is Marcellina, James Levine conducts the Met Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
I am prepping for the listening by going back to Mladen Dolar‘s Mozartean musings in Opera’s Second Death, by Slavoj Žižek and Mladen Dolar. Yes, it’s anachronism to call Le Nozze feminist avant la lettre. It’s anachronism, and it’s also accurate.
Ultimately, it is the women who pull all the strings. Both musically and dramaturgically, Mozart’s heart is on the side of the women. The countess is not merely the subject of the sublime act of forgiveness;” [something that the benevolent ruler does in other operas, La Clemenza di Tito, Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Die Zauberflöte] “she is also the one who at all points retains great dignity… Susanna is presented with the greatest sympathy. The Count and Figaro are treated objectively, while Mozart’s affection is reserved for the female figures — women truly are the better halves here. This is the stance that could be found in Die Entführung, and it turns out to be ubiquitous in virtually all of Mozart’s operas: How much closer do we feel toward Costanze and Blonde than Belmonte and Pedrillo? How much closer do we feel toward Donna Anna and Zerlina than Don Ottavio and Masetto? How much closer do we feel toward Pamina than Tamino, as she is the true subject of the second half of the Zauberflöte, the carrier of the drama?
Figaro‘s finale also makes the point that the act of reconciliation and the fall of the master can only be achieved through the female pole — the master’s ruin was brought about not by the notoriously clever rebellious servant but only by women… The bond between the countess and Susanna is the prerequisite for the general reconciliation (and in this regard the duet 3.21, “Che soave zefiretto”, is the decisive moment)… Contrary to the men, the women are subject to a certain social mobility in the course of the plot.”
Further, there is no hero tenor in the opera, and Figaro’s cavatina “Se vuoi ballare, signor contino” signals that the master has entered the domain of ridicule.
Just the fact that the Count can be addressed in this way, with such nonchalance, already means that the count is lost, that he is subject to ridicule that cannot be compensated by any amount of social conformity. No matter what he does, he cannot hold onto his status after the cavatina, even though the opera has barely begun.
Three years after the premiere, the Bastille was stormed. How’s that for holding your finger on the pulse of the time? Le Nozze: capturing — nay, owning — the Zeitgeist since 1786.
Photo from the recent Basel production of Le Nozze.