|Kidon Choi, Maria Lacey, Sunyeop Hwang, Maestro Joseph Colaneri, Laura Alley, Heather Jones, Pavel Suliandziga, and Danielle Beckvermit|
The second entry in our weekend of Mozart was a winning production of Mozart's 1790 masterpiece Cosi fan tutte, presented by The Mannes Opera at the Gerald Lynch Theater--of perfect size, grand acoustics and excellent sightlines. Our guest for the matinée was an opera newbie who enjoyed the entire affair just as much as we did--which was a very great deal.
We have no idea why it was set in the mid 1960's--an epoch as remote from us as the late 18th century. But, no matter, the direction was delightful, the singing superb, and the acting accomplished. Director Laura Alley made sure that every action was motivated and the interactions between the characters made clear.
Maestro Colaneri's conducting elicited the fine musicianship of The Mannes Orchestra. Like all other Mozart operas, this one is filled with sparkling tunes that one can't resist humming as they linger in the brain.
The story of Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto is that of two young men challenged by an older wiser one over their belief in the fidelity of the two sisters with whom they are in love. There is a wager and a plan to follow. The plan is to tell the young women that they have gone off on a military excursion and then to reappear in disguise to court the women.
Don Alfonso's plan is aided and abetted by Despina, the servant of the two sisters. The silliness seems a lot more acceptable in 18th c. style than in the 1960's. Instead of appearing as exotic "Albanians", they appear as rock 'n rollers with leather motorcycle jackets and t-shirts proclaiming Rolling Stones and The Who. Why not? It's the swinging sixties, after all!
As Don Alfonso, baritone Kidon Choi nearly stole the show from a very talented cast. His acting was larger than life and his sturdy voice impressive. It is no wonder that he is garnering prizes for his prodigious talent.
Spunky Despina was portrayed by Canadian soprano Maria Lacey who negotiated Mozart's music with aplomb and demonstrated comedic chops as the crazy doctor with his Mesmer machine and later as the faux notary. "In uomini, in soldati", showed her at her wiliest.
The sisters and their lovers were all excellent. Soprano Danielle Beckvermit was a knockout as Fiordiligi. Mozart's challenging aria "Come scoglio" was perfectly sung and indeed reflected upon her steadfast character--at least more steadfast than her sister!
Mezzo-soprano Heather Jones made a delightful Dorabella, at first histrionically devastated by Ferrando's departure in "Smanie implacabile" and later, coy as she succumbs to the advances of Guglielmo.
The two men were terrific. Tenor Pavel Suliandziga (whom we previously enjoyed so much as Nemorino in L'Elisir d'amore) was an ardent Ferrando, singing with beautiful unforced tone in "Un aura amorosa", ending it with a delicate decrescendo. When he learns that his beloved Dorabella has betrayed him with his buddy, his face revealed many shades of dismay.
As Guglielmo, originally more successful at seduction, baritone Sunyeop Hwang was equally fine with his smooth caressing baritone and fine phrasing. We especially enjoyed his humorous aria "Non siate ritrosi" in which he describes his manly attributes.
There were countless marvelous moments--the sisters' duet "Ah, guarda sorella", and particularly the trio "Soave sia il vento".
We have seen productions in which the girls return to their original lovers and versions in which they stay with the new lovers. But we have never seen one in which they walk away from the wedding at the end. That was original and surprising!
Costuming by Helen E. Rodgers was certainly authentic to the period and colorful. Set designer Roger Hanna created a trompe l'oeil golf course for the first scene in which Don Alfonso is playing golf with Ferrando and Guglielmo. Later, it doubled as a suburban back yard. One might call this production a "hole in one". Mannes really sank the putt!
(c) meche kroop