Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Isouard's Cinderella: Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square

A good fairy-tale sweeps us away on a magic carpet while never letting us forget that for all the enchanting transformations, beneath the sorcery lie essential truths.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Miah Persson as Fiordiligi and Alex Shrader as Ferrando [Photos by Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging]
03 Jun 2014

Così fan tutte at the Los Angeles Philharmonic

On May 23rd the Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered its production of Così fan tutte, the third and last of the Mozart/Daponte opera series it inaugurated in 2012.

Cosi fan tutte at the Los Angeles Philharmonic

A review by Estelle Gilson

Above: Miah Persson as Fiordiligi and Alex Shrader as Ferrando

Photos by Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

 

Although advertized as the “grand finale” of the series, grand is hardly an adjective one can associate with Così fan tutte, though the work has many other operatic virtues: first and foremost, its exquisite music.

Così also requires a small cast. It can be produced on a small stage. And its plot, which revolves around mistaken identity, the stuff of comedy since the inception of drama (unless you’re Oedipus), can be set in almost any place in any era. And so it has been and will continue to be. This year alone 49 different productions will be presented in 42 cities.

The most important thing you need to know in regard to Così fan tutte is that no one knows what it’s about. The opera’s title means “all women are like that” and its subtitle “La scuola di amante” means “school for lovers.” Ostensibly it’s an education in love. However, in the 224 years since the opera’s creation, each era’s arbiters of morality have redefined their view of the work. They have told us to laugh at it or to cry, to sympathize with certain characters, or to revile them. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s production team: director, Christopher Alden, set and costume designers, Zaha Hadid and Hussein Chalayan, have chosen not to moralize, but to show us the continually shifting ground upon upon which the work is based.

Cosi_LA_005.gif

Mutability is the key to this production. The set, visible as the audience enters, is a smooth white, undulating ramp that represents the sea. (Così is set in Naples). Apparently slippery, and somewhat steep, the women were often barefoot and the audience gasped at one moment as a tenor slammed rather abruptly into a wall. The ramp, which was designed to reflect the curves of the concert hall itself, had a solo moment when no one was aboard, when it undulated rapidly to dramatic lighting changes.

The opera’s plot revolves around Guglielmo and Ferrando, two soldiers, who boast to Don Alfonso, their cynical old friend that Fiordiligi and Dorabella, the sisters to whom they’re engaged, will be faithful to them forever. Alfonso, portrayed as a nastier creature in this production than usual, bets the young men that if they follow his instructions he can manipulate the girls into taking new lovers in less than 24 hours. The women are told that their heroes have been called to war, and shortly thereafter the two men disguised as “Albanians” appear to declare their passionate love, each to the other’s fiancée. Alfonso tightens his trap by bribing the young women’s maid servant, Despina, here too, a tougher character than usual, to assist him. Torn by conscience and tempted by the joys of love, the girls suffer a few pangs, but soon agree to marry their new fiancés, whereupon their original fiancés reappear and everyone’s treachery is revealed. Since there’s no reconciling all this deceit — even in 1790 “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again” seemed to work for all kinds of misdeeds — the opera ends with a cheerful sextet in which the characters agree, “let’s get over this and look at the sunny side of things.”

The musical aspects of this production sparkled. Gustavo Dudamel and the Philharmonic orchestra produced one of the most articulate, lustrous, most graceful orchestral performances of the opera I’ve heard. The six attractive, lithe and experienced Mozart singers excelled in their roles. Bass Rod Gilfry seemed to enjoy portraying the almost maniacal Alfonso. I’m not sure how mezzo soprano Rosemary Joshua, as Despina, managed to sing and strut her hard-boiled stuff on that stage. As Fiordiligi, the more resistant of the two sisters, soprano Miah Persson negotiated the difficult “Come scoglio” with aplomb. Mezzo-soprano Roxana Constaninescu was an eager to be loved Dorabella, while Baritone Philippe Sly as Guglielmo, and tenor Alek Shrader, Ferrando, were in turn earnest and zany lovers.

As in The Marriage of Figaro, despite the fizzy overture, crisp rhythms and perky tunes heard in the orchestra, the cast enters the stage at a measured funereal pace (indeed, there is a moment in this opera when we hear the funeral march). Once again there are bits of comedy enacted at the apron of the stage involving Dudamel and orchestra members. In this case, it is Alfonso, who engages with the conductor, as well as with the excellent continuo duo, harpsichordist Bradley Moore and cellist David Heiss.

In keeping with the concept of mutability, Hussein Chalayan, renowned for his changeable clothing (he once designed “a robotic dress with panels that mechanically separate and float upward”), created layered clothing for the four lovers that metamorphosed even as they sang. Some of the costumes were attractive, some distracting. Try as I will, I still don’t understand why, when the mutability terminated, the two former soldiers ended up in dresses.

Architectural, theatrical and fashion world sites posted laudatory comments on the artistic achievements of the opera’s production team. Still, as in Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro, the LA Philharmonic’s two previous Mozart/Daponte productions, Disney Hall’s staging area, which literally lacks depth enough for drama, and doors enough for farce. proved an unhappy venue for opera. My companion, a veteran theater goer, who had never before seen the opera, couldn’t figure out what was happening on stage - though the titles helped.

This was a conceptually fascinating, musically delightful Così fan tutte, but it was neither joyful, nor understandable. Maybe that’s all we can expect from it. The scholarly 1910 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica called its libretto “too stupid to criticize.”

Estelle Gilson


Cast and production information:

Ferrando:Alek Shrader; Gugliermo::Philippe Sly: Don Alfonso:Rod Gilfry; Fiordiligi:Miah Persson; Dorabella:Rosana Constantinesco; Despina: Rosemary Joshua. Conductor: Gustavo Dudamel. Director: Christopher Alden. Set Designer: Zaha Hadid Architects. Costume Designer: Hussein Chalayan. Lighting Designer: Adam Silverman.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):