- Beatrice (Lindsay Ammann), Columbina (Angela Mannino), Rosaura (Marcy Stonikas), and Eleonora (Ashlyn Rust) try to figure out what their men are up to.
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari had a similar problem in 1903 to the one Pat Diamond had while assembling his production of Wolf-Ferrari's The Curious Women, which opened Friday at Wolf Trap. The Venetian-German composer tried to make the characters of his operas believable, which is not something that's particularly easy since they, you know, sing instead of talking. And the veteran stage director and University of Maryland professor had to make Wolf-Ferrari's plot relate-able, which is not easy when it's about women scheming about how to find out what their husbands are up to in a private club.
"What I decided to do was set it in the pre-ERA era," says Diamond. That way, he says, the show would "have a lot of tension between the women, who were independent thinkers, and on the other hand the real traditional family with the male as patriarch."
Diamond's production is dressed in the floral prints and eye-burning colors of that era -- think Mad Men a few years down the line, after "avocado" became a popular color for kitchen appliances.
Wolf-Ferrari's opera was based on a play by Carlo Goldoni, an 18th-century writer who similarly chafed against the strictures of his time. "One of the interesting things about Goldoni when he wrote the play, he was thinking about the Masonic lodge that was in Vienna," Diamond says. "He was trying to make the men's club into that sort of thing."
In adapting the play, Diamond says, Wolf-Ferrari decided to "go a little more with the Victorian model it feels like." In other words, a perfect match for the late '60s as well.
This is only the third time The Curious Women has been performed in the United States. Its score had moved into public domain, Diamond says, so Kim Pensinger Witman, the director of the Wolf Trap Opera Company, was able to download the score, play it through, and then share it with Diamond and conductor Gary Thor Wedow. Wedow lives in Seattle, Diamond lives in New York, and not having to wait for scores to arrive in the mail made it considerably easier to stage an opera in the D.C. suburbs, Diamond says.
Instead of a curtain to separate the men's and women's worlds, this Women will use a great swinging wall, "kind of like a cinematic wipe," Diamond says. It'll help emphasize how locked out of dudetown the women are. "There’s this italian expression, 'all you can do is kiss the door,'" Diamond says. "You want to get in, but all you can really do is kiss the door."
"The Curious Women" continues Sunday at 3 p.m., and repeats on June 25 at 7 p.m.