Unfaithful lovers, sequined jumpsuits and giant silver dildos — no, not a night at Mardi Gras, but a night at the opera with Jim Sharman.
Sharman, famed director of The Rocky Horror Picture Show has brought his camp vision to Mozart’s widely loved Cosi fan tutte. Despite the neon wigs and abundant confetti, he claims any kitsch value was incidental as he set about re-interpreting the piece.
“Maybe I just can’t help myself. There is a kind of crazy humour in the piece itself,” he told Sydney Star Observer of his approach to the story of folly-filled young love. Often dubbed The School for Young Lovers, Cosi tells of two military officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo who, egged on by the ‘older and wiser’ Don Alfonso, set out to test just how eternal their fiancées’ (Dorabella and Fiordiligi) love is.
The pair pretend to have been called away to war but soon after return in disguise to try and woo the young ladies’ hearts. The girls hold out with staunch indignation for as long as they can, but by Act II, their thoughts are not as pure as the men might have hoped for before the elaborate ruse began.
Filled with sexual innuendo, laughable levels of innocence and more than a few macho groin thrusts, it is no surprise that audiences have been falling in love with this piece for over 100 years.
“Cosi, it’s like a diamond, it contains all of Mozart’s characteristics, from the silly to the sublime, and I think you’ve got to run with all of it,” Sharman said.
“Mozart was the most human of composers, I think. All of the characters in Cosi are in a way damaged in their relationships, but damaged in a way we all recognise, and in a way that makes the opera very human. It’s about fidelity and infidelity and forgiveness, so it speaks to a present audience. That also explains why it begins and ends in the present. All of it is an effort to be honest to the piece itself, to kind of reveal the piece and reveal the opera itself.”
For the same reason, Sharman made the controversial decision to perform an English translation of the opera.
“If you were doing some of the other Mozart operas, I don’t think there would be a great benefit from doing it in English,” he explained. “But I think with Figaro and Don Giovanni and Cosi, it is occasionally useful to remind the audience what they’re hearing.
“I also think the singers bring a greater authority to it when they know what they’re singing about. I do understand there are certain musical reasons to perform opera in the original language, and I’m not suggesting they should do it all the time. Curiously, that was the most controversial decision.
“One of the things about Cosi fan tutte I’ve noticed is that the productions that best succeed are the ones that take a very strong line with it. There is something about it maybe that others in the past have found daunting, but you need to give way to all these different areas — the humour, the drama, the emotion, the eroticism — but that was the aspect that most attracted me to it.”

info: Cosi fan tutte plays throughout October. To reserve seats visit
www.opera-australia.org.au

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