Darling Sarah, sister Sieglinde, and other beloved bloggatori (blogghisti ? R, tu che ne dici ?) have their panties in a pucker over Glyndebourne's plans to present a "hiphopera" version of Così fan tutte.
You know, it strikes me that such an undertaking could be analogous to, say, a death-row criminal on the lam defiling the hallowed works of Western letters with scatological language, scorched-earth allusions to contemporary politics, blasphemous perversions of Christian theology, and gruesome depictions of maiming and torture, all filtered through his own wilful and myopic erotic fixations.
Oh, wait, that would be brother Dante and his Commedia, the one his successors called "divine." What, precisely, makes Così more untouchable than Vergil, Ovid, and Lucan?
My pretties, do you propose organizing a bonfire of the vanities, à la Fra Girolamo Savanarola, upon which to immolate Manet's wicked "Olympia," that irreverent riff on Titian's "Venus of Urbino," that irreverent riff on Giorgione's "Sleeping Venus," that irreverent riff on some "Venus pudica" (or who-knows-what) going back into the mists of time? (There's a nice, crunchy essay on the geneaology of these works here.)
Così survived the censure of Beethoven and Wagner. I don't see how an updated treatment will damage it. What I've read about Glyndebourne's hip-hop Così makes it sound like Robert Lepage's splendid Busker's Opera, an adaptation of John Gay's Beggar's Opera via Brecht and Weill and so much else.
(Please, no lectures on "originality," that dumb-ass, laudanum-fuelled Romantic phantasm. A philologist by training, I believe that there is nothing new under the sun. Furthermore, I quote Umberto Eco: "Texts talk among themselves." It's our job to eavesdrop as lovingly as we can. How wonderful that one of the whispering texts in this instance is Così fan tutte!)
Now, all that said, I don't especially care for hip-hop. Mozart and da Ponte do quite nicely for me, thank you very much. But why all the outrage over something that (1) hasn't even happened yet; and (2) seems to fit squarely into the time-honored tradition of revision and misprision that we call art?
Do I think that School4Lovers (as the infamous venture is known) will draw new audiences to opera? I don't know. Why not give it a chance? If the organizers want to make things rich and interesting, they will set chunks of School4Lovers and Così side by side and invite viewers to probe their differences and common elements.
What do I think the chances are that School4Lovers will prove to be an earth-shattering work of enduring importance? Close to zero. But that's true of everything. Not so long ago, Così fan tutte itself was scorned and forgotten.
Finally, I don't recall anyone commenting on the truly offensive part of the Guardian article:
The transformed version of Mozart's masterpiece is part of an increasingly successful attempt to draw new, and particularly young, audiences to [Glyndebourne], which has a largely unfair but deep-rooted image of exclusivity and expense.
Yeah, right. A swanky opera festival with swanky ticket prices has a "largely unfair" image of exclusivity and expense.