The work was created in the framework of RESEO’s (the European Network of Opera Education Departments) Creative Ways to Mozart Project. Throughout 2006, Mozart’s birthday was marked with projects across Europe in opera houses, concert halls, schools, community and youth centres, and libraries. Projects with children, young adults, families and teachers were then documented in a publication, an inspiring record of a year of opera education projects.
Our Hip H’Opera, a new version of Cosi fan tutte, was a collaboration between four opera houses in Estonia, Germany, Finland and the UK. Resulting from this were two new productions which took strikingly different approaches to the fusion of Mozart and Da Ponte’s opera with the contemporary artforms of hip-hop. Young people were at the centre of each production as youth crews or hip-hop choruses; local hip-hop artists reflected the different hip-hop styles of each country and in the orchestras of young musicians.
The creation of any new work is simultaneously challenging and exciting and School 4 Lovers was an extremely positive experience for audiences and performers as well as for the Glyndebourne as a whole. From an audience attendance perspective the School 4 Lovers project was extremely successful. We succeeded in attracting a new, wider, more diverse and younger audience, 49% of them being entirely new to Glyndebourne.
In attracting a new audience to Glyndebourne and providing them with a strong experience of our work we have been able to contribute to our ongoing audience development, complementing our existing work with schools and mainstream operatic repertoire. And for Glyndebourne as an organisation, we have grown and developed by challenging the way that we work, and pushing the boundaries of what an opera company exists to do.
This modern adaptation of the story transposes the action from Da Ponte's original 18th century libretto to a 21st century inner city sink estate, where Liam and Freddie are invited by the manager of their crew, Big Donnie, to test the fidelity of their girlfriends Gigi and Bella. Mozart's music rides the beats from the street. Da Ponte's verse becomes authentic rap. But Despina is still Despina, and her philosophy remains: "by the time a girl is fifteen, she should know the ropes". The performance is aimed at young people of 14 and above as it contains some strong language, deals with adult themes and has some sexual content.
Cast and Credits
Originally by: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte
Idea and Concept: Markus Kosuch
Adaptation and Musical Arrangements: Jonathan Gill, Charlie Parker
Adaptation and Text: Stephen Plaice
Director: Clare Whistler
Designer and Lighting: Robin Carter
Conductor: Jonathan Gill South Bank Sinfonia
Cast includes: Paradise (Donnie), Ville Salonen (Freddie), Jessica Walker (Gigi), Christine Gelder (Bella), Natasha Seale (Despina), Marvin Springer (Liam)
Première : Glyndebourne, 16, 17 & 18 March 2006
'That this hip-hop reinvention of Mozart’s opera tapped into its tenderness, violence, passion and despair more powerfully than almost any Cosí I’ve seen was testimony to its success... this is one of the slickest and sassiest musicals around... The notion of morphing Mozart into the voice of an inner city prophet seemed risky in the extreme. But it has worked. And the sheer virtuosity of those metamorphoses in the musical arrangements of Charlie 'the Baptist' Parker and Jonathan Gill is striking, sometimes breathtaking... the updated story has spawned a text from Stephen Plaice that Mozart would have relished... This School for Lovers will be a hard act to follow.' Hilary Finch, The Times
'The music promoter Donnie is played by the charismatic Paradise, who sets up exactly the right buzz of expectation, as does Stephen Plaice's raunchy vernacular libretto... The overwhelmingly teenage audience was not disappointed. They loved the dance routines that periodically stopped the action, but they also liked those moments when Mozart came through with unadulterated clarity... This show will now go to Helsinki and Tallinn, but certainly deserves a further life in Britain. My teenage neighbour liked the Mozart bits, but she loved the club stuff best of all.' Michael Church, The Independent
'What made it was the sharp contemporary wit of Stephen Plaice’s inner-city English text. I’ll never hear the duet for Dorabella and Guglielmo the same again now I know how well it fits the words.' Richard Fairman, The Financial Times
'There are more good things to say about Glyndebourne's hip-hop version of Mozart's Cosí Fan Tutte than I have space available... I loved this West End-style production from the start. It was a hugely entertaining evening and I wish I could have bought a DVD recording of it as I left... Stephen Plaice's witty and sexually explicit English libretto engaged the audience (a sea of young faces) throughout... the whole show was visually stunning and Glyndebourne must bring it back to Britain later in the year.' Mike Howard, Brighton Evening Argus