mozart’s sublime music, James Conlon great conducting, and a solid ensemble of world-class singer-performers. What more can an operagoer want? Perhaps a fresh take on an old warhorse. Mozart would have recognized this production “Cosi fan tutte,” and applauded. For some purists, that’s the way it should be.
L.A. Opera has developed this odd habit of bringing in productions from elsewhere that offer novel interpretations of rarities, like Rossini’s “The Turk in Italy” and Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw,” and conventional stagings of the classics, such as “Rigoletto” and now “Cosi.” The reverse approach would seem to make more sense.
Back in the 1980s, Peter Sellars was alternately hailed and condemned for his Trump Tower “Marriage of Figaro,” his Vietnam-era “Cosi” and his urban ghetto “Don Giovanni.” Anyone who saw those productions, now available on DVD, never saw or heard those operas in quite the same way ever again. L.A. Opera’s new “Cosi,” originally staged by Nicholas Hytner at Glyndebourne, meets expectations rather than challenges or expands on them. Frankly, this could be called the Beige “Cosi” with designer Vicki Mortimer’s pale marble unit set, which could also function to stage any number of other Mozart operas. It resembles the balcony area of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.
Helmer Ashley Dean, taking over for Hytner here, has been blessed with game performers who look the parts of the embattled lovers who do horrible things, but love each other just the same. Ferrando (Saimir Pirgu) and Guglielmo (Ildebrando D’Arcangelo) deceive their respective girlfriends, Dorabella (Ruxandra Donose) and Fiordiligi (Aleksandra Kurzak), to test their fidelity — and the women fail, hence the title “thus all women are.” Before feminists freak, it’s best to consider Mozart’s “Figaro” and “Don Giovanni,” and it’s a safe bet that the composer found the men here the bigger rats.
One thing that is never in doubt — and this is a major credit to Dean, Conlon and their singers — is how much these four characters love each other despite all the chicanery. Don Alfonso (Lorenzo Regazzo) proposes the wager that starts the trickery, and he and his accomplice Despina (Roxana Constantinescu) may be the wise realists, but they never get to sing the kind of music that not only delights the ear but moves the heart.
Kurzak’s enormous range and dexterity turned her faithful-like-a-rock aria, “Come scoglio,” into the showstopper it is. Pirgu spins a beautiful mezza-voce, making his Ferrando a most sympathetic cad. Donose is perhaps the most stylish singer of the bunch, with D’Aracangelo undeniably possessing the most animal drive in his voice. The result is pre-bedroom vocal fireworks, and my bet is this Dorabella and Guglielmo make a go of it after the curtain drops.