Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

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):