From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Soave sia il vento from Così fan tutte

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

We had some fairly stormy weather today in Seattle—one of those wind storms that turns your umbrella inside out. Pretty funny when it’s somebody else’s, not so funny when it’s your own. I was going to try to find some sturm und drang to mark the occasion, but then I realized that what I really wanted was an antidote rather than more of the same. So today’s diapsalmata features one of the highlights from Così fan tutte. Mozart was of course Kierkegaard’s exemplary composer of sensuous in its elemental originality, and the exemplary work is of course Don Giovanni. To my knowledge, Kierkegaard doesn’t refer to Cosi anywhere in his writing, but others certainly have. I was reading Slavoj Žižek the other day, and came across this, from Opera’s Second Death:

“In all three of these stages [aesthetic, ethical, and religious], the same sacrificial gesture is at work, each time in a different power/potential (in Schelling’s sense of the term). The religious sacrifice is a matter of course (suffice it to recall Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac, Kierkegaard’s supreme example), so we should concentrate on the renunciation that pertains to the ethical and the aesthetic:

The ethical stage is defined by the sacrifice of the immediate consumption of life, of our yielding to the fleeting moment, in the name of some higher universal norm. In the erotic domain, one of the most refined examples of this renunciation is provided by Mozart’s Così fan tutte. If his Don Giovanni embodies the aesthetic (as was developed by Kierkegaard himself in his detailed analysis of the opera in Either/Or), the lesson of Così fan tutte is ethical—why? The point of Cosi is that the love that unites the two couples at the beginning of the opera is no less artificial, mechanically brought about, than the love of the two sisters for the exchanged partners dressed up as Albanian officers that results from the manipulations of the philosopher Alfonso—in both cases, we are dealing with a mechanism that the subjects follow in a blind, puppetlike way. Therein consists the Hegelian “negation of negation”: First, we perceive the artificial love, the product of Alfonso’s manipulations, as opposed to the initial, authentic love, and then we suddenly become aware that there is actually no difference between the two. So because one love counts as much as the other, the couples can return to their initial marital arrangement. This is what Hegel has in mind when he claims that in the course of a dialectical process, the immediate starting point proves itself to be something already mediated, that is, its own self-negation; in the end, we ascertain that we always and already were what we wanted to become, the only difference being that this always-already state changes its modality from in-itself into for-itself. The ethical is in this sense the domain of repetition qua symbolic; if, in the aesthetic, one endeavors to capture the moment in its uniqueness, in the ethical a thing becomes what it is only through its repetition.”

Soave sia il vento
Tranquilla sia l’onda
Ed ogni elemento
Benigno risponda
Ai nostri desir

May the wind be gentle,
may the waves be calm,
and may every element
respond kindly
to our desire


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