17 February 2008

Barber of Seville

I saw a DVD of Barber of Seville recently. One point that struck me was a bit of stagecraft.

The plot turns on the machinations of a wealthy nobleman, Count Almaviva, who pretends to be an impoverished student so he can win the love of Rosina, and who then pretends to be an inebriated soldier so he can get into her home under the nose of her guardian, Dr. Bartolo.

While the count is wearing both levels of pretense, in the Bartolo home, he gets in some trouble. The real regiment shows up, and it appears that he's under arrest. He shows the officers a medallion hanging around his neck. This apparently proves that he's a powerful person, and they back off.

The problem is this: Rosina can't see the medallion, or can't understand the reason why it matters. For she knows that the inebriated-soldier bit is a pretense, but she thinks (and in the second act will still think) that her beloved is an impoverished soldier.

So, how show the medallion to the soldiers without tipping off Rosina? In the performance recorded on the DVD that I saw this week, there was no real attempt to solve this problem. We were just supposed to figure it out for ourselves (or the audience was already supposed to know the story) who knew what thereafter.

I can't help but think that there's more to it, perhaps made explicit in the older Beaumarchais play on which it's based. And perhaps that another director would be more imaginative in overcoming this difficulty. Nothing more is necessary than a wall, so that the count can show off the medallion in one room while Rosina and the Doctor are conveniently in the other. But something of the sort really ought to be arranged.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.