Seattle is told to stay away from the opera

Seattle is told to stay away from the opera


norman lebrecht

January 24, 2018

The critic of Vanguard Seattle is displeased with Cosi fan tutte. Not just displeased. Outraged.

Post this on the billboards:

I know you might be thinking, “It can’t be that bad” or “I have to go see this trainwreck.”

Don’t. Just don’t. If you want to debase yourself, there are plenty of absolutely gut-wrenching depictions of rape that you can watch at home that aren’t for laughs. If you want to revel in misanthropy and questionable artistic choices involving rape, try Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible. If the homophobia of the characters in that film feels too unaddressed, go get your heart turned inside out by Boys Don’t Cry.

You really earn your misanthropy with those films. At Seattle Opera’s Cosi Fan Tutte, it is simply all too easy to hate everyone and everything.

And the critic at Seattle Weekly says, stay away and don’t ever come back:

What is dismaying about the whole affair is that we’re likely never again going to see a Così not done this way. 

Tuomas Katajala, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Marina Costa-Jackson, Craig Verm, Laura Tatulescu. Photo: Philip Newton



  • The Voice from America says:

    How nice to see that Regietheater’s North American outpost has now officially opened in Seattle. Massive donor contributions will surely follow.

    Way to go, Aidan Lang!!

    • Olassus says:

      It’s a Jonathan Miller staging.

      • The Voice from America says:

        Like, Lang didn’t have veto power over the production. Mmm-hmm.

        • Marc says:

          Veto-power? He chose to remount the production. And OK’d the stage director. And is responsible for explicitly approving the staging that is so offensive to so many (and not only women, there are moments of other completely unnecessary mockery: seizures for laughs anyone?).

          As I said below, “tone deaf.”

          They love their clever “SO” slogans now, and probably paid an agency tens of thousands of $$$ to invent the conceit. Well…

    • Olassus says:

      Jonathan Miller’s acclaimed contemporary production “may be the funniest and most dramatically successful show Seattle Opera has ever staged.” – The Seattle Times

  • Bruce says:

    This review makes me sad, because I’m pretty sure it describes the production accurately. And the reviewer’s prognosis (“What is dismaying about the whole affair is that we’re likely never again going to see a Così not done this way’) sounds depressingly likely.

  • Sharon says:

    I understand modernizing an opera, but I don’t see how one can put rape, at least assault rape, into Cosi Fan Tutte, without substantially changing the score and orchestration.

    • John Borstlap says:

      New here? Regietheater means: changing the plot in such a way that the aura of the music and the meaning of the words form the greatest possible contrast with what is seen on stage. The reason behind it, is that the director wants his ‘concept’ put over the work as an extra layer, preventing the audience to get the impression that in fact, it is an old work which is presented.

      • The View from America says:

        According to “The Great Book of Wikipedia”:

        “Regietheater (German for director’s theater) is the modern (mainly post-World War II) practice of allowing a director freedom in devising the way a given opera or play is staged so that the creator’s original, specific intentions or stage directions (where supplied) can be changed, together with major elements of geographical location, chronological situation, casting and plot. Typically such changes may be made to point a particular political point or modern parallels which may be remote from traditional interpretations.”

  • fierywoman says:

    Cosi’ is about seduction, not rape.

  • Larry says:

    I saw the 2006 Seattle production – it was awful.

    • Olassus says:

      It’s the same production, i.e. 12 years old, or older if not originally created for Seattle. So there’s no need for everyone to be clutching their pearls.

      • Bruce says:

        It looks like there is a new director, though, who may be the one responsible for the onstage behavior.

        • Olassus says:

          That would be a different story, so to speak, and explain the strange linking of Jonathan Miller with Regietheater — for although he has always offered concepts, he has never offered junk.

          Separately, I agree with the comment on this thread that Così fan tutte explores seduction not rape, but it should be remembered that da Ponte places key progress offstage.

      • Yes Addison says:

        It’s substantially the same Miller production of CFT that premiered in London in 1995 and was revived there (I think) seven times, before its recent replacement.

  • Adrienne says:

    Ahh, the new and improved Mozart. I suppose some will say that this production has made Cosi Fan Tutte “relevant”, or something like that.

    If you can’t do something well, make it controversial, and it will become possible to fling all sorts of useful accusations at your detractors, diverting attention away from the intellectual, creative and moral poverty of it all.

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    These pearl-clutchers should probably stay away from DON GIOVANNI, then.

  • Marc says:

    I saw it on opening night thanks to a good friend. Seattle Opera should be ASHAMED of itself, doubly so since this travesty of a Cosi follows last season’s disgraceful Konwitschny Traviata.

    How is it possible that an opera company could be so “tone deaf” in this day and age? Maybe they should hire a dramaturg who can help them join the 21st century in an enlightened AND artistically fulfilling way.

    Direct quote from the press release following their big fundraiser last year, ” ‘The generous donations we receive at this spectacular event, as well as year-round, help us to actively work toward racial equity and social justice in the arts,’ said General Director Aidan Lang.” (see it here:


    Time for the board to wake-up and realize that Mr. Lang (and maybe the entire artistic team) needs to go.

  • Frankster says:

    So all of the above comments are from people who have not actually seen the production.

  • Selim says:

    But what about the singers? All this just because of the production? Any feedback about the soloists?

    • Marc says:

      Not worth the amount of eye and brain bleach needed to wipe away the production.

    • Bruce says:

      “But what about the singers? All this just because of the production? Any feedback about the soloists?”

      From the first review (Seattle Vanguard): It only takes one a minute to say what went right with this Cosi, so we’ll start with that. The singers did admirably. A few arias were gorgeous. The acting and choreography were initially solid—just the right amount of capering for an opera buffa. However, as a favor to the singers, I won’t mention them by name. If I were them, I would strike this production from my resume.

      The other review does the usual “5 paragraphs about the production for every 1 paragraph about the singers” ratio. They seem to have been very good.

  • Frankster says:

    This entire conversation sounds strange. Jonathan Miller has been a recognized director for decades and this production dates from 1994! He is not considered by any stretch “radical” in the real world of opera. The other thing is that all… all of the published reviews have been favorable and often very favorable except for the unique one mentioned. You can see most of them at Is Seattle that far away from the real opera world? I doubt it.

    • Frankster says:

      I saw my first “Regie” production in 1963 (Wieland’s Tannhauser at Bayreuth) so the concept is not new…

      • Marc says:

        Jonathan Miller did not direct this production. The costumes are not his. The staging has ‘evolved’ (ahem) significantly since its outings at ROH.

        • Olassus says:

          He is nonetheless credited as director by Seattle Opera.

          • Marc says:

            Contractual formality. Original director is always credited, even the ones who are no longer with us on this mortal coil.

          • The Voice from America says:

            … as the angels keep dancing on the head of a pin …

          • Olassus says:

            I know, Marc, but usually when that happens, the person revivifying the thing gets a mention.

          • Marc says:

            Olassus, on the Seattle Opera website where the Cosi creative team is listed, you will find the following credits:

            – Jonathan Miller, original stage director and production designer
            – Harry Fehr, stage director

  • Anon says:

    Well, somehow in our western societies subtleties are not getting though anymore. Everyone thinks he has to scream and be extreme to get attention.
    Blame the evolution of the ‘aesthetics’ of advertisement in laissez-faire capitalism.

  • Edgar says:

    The best opera directors and dramaturgs are writing here, I see. They are like sailors telling sailors atually on the water how to sail, while standing on the quay and never having sat in, let alone sailed, a boat. Or, as a Dutch saying goes: “The best pilots are on shore.” Herr Beckmesser says hello.

  • Edgar says:

    Come to think of it, the Seattle production would be even better had it been set at the lecherous Presidents Club’s fundraising-“gala” at London’s Dorchester Hotel. Still, it has plenty of timely aspects the way it is, holding up the mirror to a debauched society. Mozart, and certainly Da Ponte, who was no stranger to all kinds of sexual escapades, would wholeheartedly approve.