Mozart Meets Covid-19: Finnish Opera Adapts Classic Piece

This Thursday photo shows singers at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki rehearse “Covid fan tutti,” a satirical take on a famed opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart but with an adapted contemporary story line that reflects the Nordic country’s pandemic experiences. (Stefan Bremer/Finnish National Opera via AP)

HELSINKI (AP) — After being forced to cancel all its spring season performances due to the coronavirus outbreak, Finland’s National Opera is opening this fall with an opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart featuring a topical twist: a story line that reflects on the Nordic country’s Covid-19 pandemic experiences.

The 100-minute piece “Covid fan tutte” is meant as a satirical adaptation of the Austrian composer’s classic “Cosi fan tutte.”

The Finnish-language production that premieres Friday conveys “scenes from the coronavirus spring” in Finland with a look at social isolation, job losses and travel restrictions, among other topics. The artists involved say the work doesn’t aim to make fun of a human tragedy.

“Without humor these extraordinary times would have been very hard to take,” said soprano Karita Mattila, who will sing the lead role — the part of Despina, a character from Mozart’s classic who is now navigating her way through the coronavirus world.

The opera will be performed under strict distancing rules for both performers and the audience. Performed on the Helsinki Opera House’s main stage, only 650 spectators will be allowed inside, half the venue’s capacity. Face masks are strongly recommended, though not compulsory. There will be no choir on the stage but its singing will be heard through a prerecorded performance.

Mozart’s Italian-language “Cosi fan tutte” — first performed in 1790 — was his lighthearted take on the merry-go-round of human relationships. The plot of “Covid fan tutte” follows the lives of ordinary Finns, the news conferences by the government and pandemic experts, while adding satirical undertones.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, the conductor, recently described it as “absurd comedy.”

“Mozart was a mischievous and imaginative fellow who wasn’t chained to conventional thinking,” Salonen said. “He would probably be very excited about this project. I’m convinced of that.”

Finland, a nation of 5.5 million, has so far recorded a total of 335 Covid-19 related deaths.

“Covid fan tutte” will have 12 performances, running through Oct. 23.

By JARI TANNER Associated Press

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