Screenshot: Amazon Prime Video

Mozart In The Jungle ends its time in Italy with an episode full of triumph, betrayal, and devastation, which is fitting for both the series and the opera-inspired story arc that’s carried the first half of this season. Rodrigo received multiple warnings upon meeting La Fiamma, including one from the diva herself, so of course he concludes this “avventura romantica” with an outright threat.

Advertisement

Rodrigo and Alessandra never really had a shot, and not just because of his unresolved feelings for Hailey. His fickle nature is made tolerable, even enjoyable, by Gael García Bernal’s playful, wolfish performance. But the conductor is mostly careless about other people’s feelings. It’s not malice; he’s just moving to his own beat, following his heart, etc. (For someone so opposed to convention, Rodrigo certainly likes doling out the platitudes.) He’s bucked at tradition in Manhattan and now in Venice, where it looks like it’s finally catching up with him. And he gets it from all sides in “Now I Will Sing,” which wraps up the first half of the season on a high note.

The melodrama hasn’t been dialed down at all, but it’s more gradually built here than in the previous entry. Where it seemed “Avventura Romantica” sent Rodrigo on a chase “just ‘cause,” this fifth episode positions him right where he needs to be, which is on the receiving end of a couple of tongue lashings. Rodrigo’s a lovable scamp, and we’re bound to keep enjoying his antics. But it’s also time he realized that his actions, while lacking in malice, have consequences.

And he certainly pays for that admission of love. First, Hailey chews him out for abandoning her and the orchestra, questioning whether he can describe any of his feelings as love or devotion. And it’s not just her. Rodrigo admits that while he might mean these things in the moment when he says them, they’re not truths that necessarily carry over into the next day, because “then there’s another moment.”. Naturally, he thinks this is just part of his authentic way of living, but there’s something that rings false about his admiration, because it’s always such a passing fancy. As William Shakespeare put it, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” He’s free to woo whomever he wants, but just don’t call everything love, guy.

Advertisement

Screenshot: Amazon Prime Video

That’s not just a personal quibble with the character, as Rodrigo’s passion has been called into question before. Winslow Elliott, the shrewd pianist played by Wallace Shawn in “Mozart With The Bacon,” called Rodrigo out for it. “Your heart? You don’t have the courage to know your heart. You change your mind at every turn. And each day, you drag more and more people into the vortex of your own confusion.” Winslow returned this season, though his astute observations have mostly been directed at Thomas and Gloria. But what he said stands, as Rodrigo’s flightiness has left lots of people in a lurch: the Symphony, Hailey, and Alessandra, to name a few.

In this case, Rodrigo’s able to patch things up with Hailey, who is probably now more in his thrall thanks to that kiss. But their moment also ruins everything with Alessandra, who stumbles upon them just before her performance. Thankfully, this resolution is in the hands of Paul Weitz, who introduced us to “La Fiamma.” The writer-director feints left, setting Alessandra up for failure at her big comeback concert. Things look especially ominous, with the professional booers in the audience, ready to express their displeasure by flinging ripe tomatoes at the diva. But, in keeping with the old adage, La Fiamma channels her heartbreak—and, as we see later, rage—into a stunning performance. Even Placido Domingo is impressed, though he does warn Rodrigo that in reigniting La Fiamma, he might have bitten off more than he can chew. The tenor also delivers some bad news: Rodrigo’s mentor, Maestro Rivera, has died.

Advertisement

It’s just one more tragedy in a litany, but it doesn’t look like Rodrigo’s just going to run away from it. Oh, he’ll run—Alessandra threatened to destroy him, so he’s definitely leaving Italy—but Rodrigo appears poised to get back to his Symphony and really see something through. He recognizes that his vacillations have done more harm than good; he turned down his mentor’s offer, but never really committed to the New York Symphony either. He married one woman while thinking of another, then had her hanging around while wooing a third. But Rodrigo’s whirlwind tour through life hasn’t picked up many hangers-on; as his conscience, Little Mozart, reveals at the episode’s end, there isn’t anything keeping him anywhere. Rodrigo’s been rootless by choice, but now that he’s finally called a place “home,” he might be ready to move forward.

That’s a wrap for Monica Bellucci—for now, anyway. Alessandra might be able to mess with Rodrigo from afar, but even if she never comes back, Bellucci did wonders with the part. She was fragile and fierce, and even though her lip syncing left something to be desired (it was never more obvious than when she “dueted” with Placido Domingo), she was more than just a temporary love interest. The scene where she and Bernal stand across from each other, desperate to speak but unable to because Winslow’s currently yammering, is so thick with emotion. But she also brought a lot of humor to the role, especially when researching her Amy Fisher role. Speaking of which, the Long Island Lolita aria worked out well. I’m glad they didn’t just use that real-life story to titillate, but again, it might have been worth it just to hear Bellucci figure out the Anglicized pronunciation of “Buttafuoco.”

Stray observations

  • So long, Rodrigo’s twin rattails. Ponytails? Whatever those things were.
  • Thomas is right, Gloria: Rodrigo is kind of a wanker.
  • Hey, Lizzie fans: your girl was back! And in costume.
  • Even if Gloria does get Rodrigo back, can she keep her job, now that she’s talked about resigning? Thomas certainly wants her to, but he’s also started a new venture that will probably take him away from her for a while.
  • I find myself somewhat more invested in Gloria and Thomas’ relationship than in Rodrigo and Hailey’s potential one, but I miss Cyn and Nina.
  • Thanks for reading and bearing with me, everyone! It has been a month, but I leave you in the ever-capable hands of Esther Zuckerman.

Advertisement