We are always excited by a new opera company on the NYC musical horizon and always eager to see what repertoire they select and what risks they take. We are most pleased that New York Opera Exchange chose Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte as their first staged performance and that they performed it in an original way. The arias we know and love were sung in fine Italian while the recitativi were replaced by modern English dialogue written by the director Cameron Marcotte.
Fiordiligi and Dorabella are two young analysts at a Wall St. firm where their boyfriends Ferrando and Guglielmo are young associates. Don Alfonso is their middle-aged boss. Despina is an administrative assistant who sufficiently resents her "gofer" position and is most willing to play tricks on the two sorority sisters, especially when bribed by (hold your breath) a pair of tickets to the Met.
Instead of portraits, the two sorority sisters show each other photos on their iPads. Statuses are changed on Facebook. The men get together over barbells in the company gym. Meetings are taken at Starbucks. The disguises assumed by the men are scruffy beards and "Occupy" signs. What would Mozart have made of all this? Apparently mating rituals and fickleness have not changed all that much in 200+ years.
Strangely, it all works rather well in the context of a small theater in a church with translations of the arias projected onto a screen on one side of the orchestra and photos projected on the other. Unfortunately, the reproductions of FB pages were not legible and many of the photos were unclear. The second screen might have been better used for translations on both sides.
Nicholas Armstrong conducted about two dozen members of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra who generously donated their time and considerable musical skills to bring Mozart's masterpiece to life. The wildly enthusiastic audience testified to the success of the young singers who are on the cusp of professional careers. Soprano Rebecca Shorstein made a spunky Fiordiligi and shone in "Come scoglio", negotiating the wild skips of register with panache. Mezzo Kate Wiswell has a lovely top without sacrificing mezzo quality; we enjoyed her "Smanie implacabili". Natasha Nelson was a winsome Despina.
Tenor Jeffrey Taveras did a fine job with "Un aura amorosa" and baritone Joseph Beckwith was a convincing Guglielmo. Jason Cox brought everything together as Don Alfonso.
We wish all the best to this fledgling company launched by Artistic Director Justin Werner and General Manager Francesca Reindel with the mission of creating performance opportunities for emerging artists to sing with orchestra. We are looking forward to what the next season brings.
(c) meche kroop