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Cosi Fan Tutte at LA Opera Review - Lovely and Lyrical

By Georja Umano and Gerald Everett Jones

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L to R: Guglielmo (Ildebrando D'Archangelo), Ferrando (Saimir Pirgu), Despina (Roxana Constantinescu) and Don Alfonso (Lorenzo Regazzo)

This production of Cosi Fan Tutte (Thus Do All Women) was originally created for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in East Sussex UK. The stage director is Ashley Dean. There are only six main characters in the cast, Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak as Fiordiligi, Romanian mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose as Dorabella, Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu as Ferrando, Italian bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, as Guglielmo, Italian bass Lorenzo Regazzo as Don Alfonso, and Romanian mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu as Despina. As the opera opens, soldiers Ferrando and Guglielmo are betrothed to Fiordigli and Dorabella, who are close as sisters. The boys' mentor is Don Alfonso, a prankster and cynic, who cautions them that "all women are alike," a loose translation of the opera's Italian title, He boasts he can make them stray, they all make a bet, and what unfolds is the engine of comedy right up to the end. The girls have a wise (and equally disillusioned) advisor of their own, in their servant Despina, who believes that all men are alike (and not worth much).


Fiordiligi (Aleksandra Kurzak, Left) and Dorabella (Ruxandra Donose)

Georja: This highly fabricated conventional "buffo" plot where disguises and twin fates are carried on is fun in a farce like Moliere. But in this opera where it is the only thing happening in terms of plot, and yet strives to be a jumping point for morality while being filled in with countless Mozart variations, it feels so very contrived that it is difficult to get into the story of the opera much at all. One has to suspend one's disbelief to an unbelievable extent to believe that the two fiances do not recognize their lovers for three long hours, and so adjust oneself to sit back and enjoy the impeccable sounds of the Mozart musical creations.


Gerald: This is a formula romantic light-opera plot, rather like a contemporary rom-com.  The audience is in on it all from the start, so no big surprises for us. The fun is in watching the characters suprise each other, their comic reactions, and their involved deliberations (in song) about what they should do about changed circumstances. It all feels very commercial, and certainly Mozart knew how to play to the house. With a cast of just six characters and such a thin plot, it also feels like drawing-room comedy, like a bit of fluff knocked off to entertain royalty at the end of a long weekend of carousing at the palace.


Guglielmo and Ferrando "disguised" as Albanian strangers

Georja: Every aria is impeccable and the orchestra is in top form.  However the other elements of opera which we have come to know and love -- the drama and teasing, the dancing, the comedic acting, the beautiful costumes, are for the most part uninspired. It is disappointing tht the set is mostly quite plain, that the young ladies are clothed in the same somewhat lackluster dresses throughout, that the chorus and dancers famous in LA Opera have little space to show their chops. It is a comedy, and yet it is played quite seriously except for the charming and attention grabbing young maid played by Roxana Constantinescu as Despina. There is also some built in hilarity in the romping sexual games. However the two lead sopranos as well as the two lead male singers are almost interchangeable as far as their personalities, one the reflection of the other. We have been spoiled by the parade of excellent comic directors of last year. This piece could benefit from raising the comedic bar and finding those juicy moments throughout.


Gerald: To the modern ear, Mozart's music can sound repetitious. That's probably because pop music is so much simpler (think Beatles never varying 4-4 beat). But in baroque music, it's all about theme and variations, lots of variations. Therein lies the delight, in the endless twists and turns. And on the level of the music itself, as an art form, Mozart's work is very complex, appealing as much to the intellect as to the emotion. Mozart loves to tease heart and the mind.


Georja: Yes, the music resonates in the heart. But as far as the totality of the operatic arts, productions and conventions, it is not quite up to the level of some of the great ones. And as such it feels quite long.

The girls' fiances are counseled by the cynical Don Alfonso

Gerald: We attended music director James Conlon's pre-show lecture, in which he presented Cosi Fan Tutte as the third in a series of operas about the battle of the sexes. First comes The Marriage of Figaro, based on an even older play of the time by Beaumarchais, about a pair of idealistic newlyweds who must cope with the hypocracies and sexual peccadiloes of more cynical characters, especially the aristocrats they have no choice but to serve. Don Giovanni comes next, about another classic theme - the rake better known in literature as Don Juan - who is such an unscrupulous despoiler of women that he ends up in Hell. By comparision, then, Cosi Fan Tutte is opera-lite, seeming to be the icing on the cake, the dessert at the end of a heavy meal. Conlon warns that it's much more ambitious than it seems, and it'll be for you to find that depth, if you want to look for it.


The boys from Albania woo the two girls who are betrothed to the soldiers

Photos by Robert Millard

Georja Umano is an actress-comedienne and animal advocate.
Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hemphill series of comic novels

Cosi Fan Tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Sunday, September 18, 2011, at 2pm

Thursday, September 22, 2011, at 7:30pm

Saturday, September 24, 2011, at 7:30pm

Sunday, October 2, 2011, at 2pm

Wednesday, October 5, 2011, at 7:30pm

Saturday, October 8, 2011, at 2pm


Published on Sep 19, 2011

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