Thursday, May 1, 2014


A scene from Mozart's "Così fan tutte."
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Reviewed by James Karas

Hot on the heels of Atom Egoyan’s production of Cosi fan Tutte for the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto audiences could see Mozart’s opera telecast Live in HD from the Met and compare notes.

Egoyan set the opera in a school run by Don Alfonso. Lesley Koenig’s approach for the Met is more traditional but thanks to superior singing and detailed directing the result is a delicious afternoon at the opera. Even Live in HD Director Gary Halvorson could not ruin despite his tireless attempts to do so.

Koenig leaves the opera in its 18th century setting in Naples and Set Designer Michel Yeargan emphasizes the blue sea stretching beyond the house. There are ships on the pier to take our heroes off to war. The garden, the louvered shutters and the interior are more functional than opulent. Fiordiligi and Dorabella may be living in comfort but there is no evidence of wealth. No wonder they are eager to get married and the prospect of wealthy husbands is very tempting.

Soprano Susanna Phillips was a marvellous Fiordiligi, the sister who will stand “like a fortress in ocean founded” against the advances of a rival lover. The acrobatic aria “Come soglio” puts the singer on a trampoline and she must negotiate high and low notes like a gymnast. Phillips sang with poise, control and vocal beauty.

Mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard as Dorabella was less resistant to the new lover’s advances but she gave in with gorgeous singing. Movie theatre audiences got a huge bonus in being able to see close-ups of the two lovely singers and enjoy the changing expressions on their faces. Koenig directed them as if they were appearing in a movie and they gave us nuanced expressions of happiness, surprise, shock and sadness.

A scene from Mozart's "Così fan tutte."
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

American tenor Matthew Polenzani as Ferrando and Russian baritone Rodion Pogossov as Guglielmo started as Neapolitan gentlemen and returned disguised as Albanians wearing Arab clothes.  The beards helped and their singing was excellent. When Pogossov sings “Il core vi dono” giving his heart to Dorabella in their beautiful duet all resistance melted and she forgot her fiancé. 

Ferrando’s turn comes to sweetly assault the ramparts of Fiordiligi’s resistance and when Polenzani tells her to turn her eye to him in pity, “Volgi a me pietoso,” the citadel falls.

Soprano Danielle de Niese makes a lively and enjoyable Despina. She has a smile that is a mile wide and, in addition to a lovely voice, she exudes energy, intelligence and cunning. She is partnered in her schemes by Maurizio Muraro as Don Alfonso and they both provide the humour and necessary laughter at the expense of the giddy lovers.

The real hero of the performance was conductor James Levine. He has been ill and his return to the podium to conduct from a specially-designed wheelchair was greeted with wild appreciation. Mozart’s score was performed with verve and provided sheer aural pleasure.

Gary Halvorson played with the buttons incessantly and ended up with the inevitable stupid shots and generally annoying angles and countless angle changes. When the embarrassed Fiordiligi and Dorabella were caught with bridal veils on by their returning fiancés and they had to remove them quickly, Halvorson decided to give us a shot of Despina. Just plain stupidity but life goes on.

Cosi Fan Tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte was transmitted Live in HD on April 26, 2014 at the Coliseum Scarborough Cinemas, Scarborough Town Centre, 300 Borough Drive, Scarborough, ON, M1P 4P5, (416) 290-5217 and other theatres across Canada.  For more information:  

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