Tempting fate in Cosi fan tutte
AS the 2013/14 Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series at the Palace Amusement cinemas winds down, the penultimate presentation was that of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Translated loosely, all women behave the same.
The opera is most entertaining in its lightness and departs from the plethora of tragedies that cross the stages of opera houses. Swords are drawn, yes, but not a drop of blood falls.
Conductor and music director James Levine guides Mozart's beloved opera about testing the ties of love on his return to the Met.
The work begins with a grand overture of violins that correspond with the English horn. The two call and respond, as men and women would, in sure signposting of the back and forth that characterises the love plot.
Set in 18th century Naples, the on-stage work starts out with two young soldiers Guglielmo (Rodion Pogossov) and Ferrando (Matthew Polenzani) boasting of the loyalty of their lovers Fiordiligi (Susanna Phillips) and Dorabella (Isabel Leonard). Their trusty senior Don Alfonso (Maurizio Muraro), "an old philosopher", warns they shouldn't be so trusting: women are all the same. Here the plot thickens.
The two, under a wagered guise plotted by Don Alfonso, pretend to go to war and return disguised as foreigners to entreat the hearts of the fair sisters. Each man tries his 'hands' at the other's lover to see whether they remain true. In the end, all is revealed.
The two-act drama is seasoned by a fake poisoning and much persuasion. The intrigue is made possible by the multi-talented, multi-disguised handmaiden of the girls, Despina (Danilelle de Niese). She serves as the mischievous hand that moulds the plot into interesting peaks and crests.
The storyline is obviously not about the modern-day woman as it presents the girls as near-fickle and indecisive. Today's woman would consider herself far more forthright in her abilities. But, being true to the period, the girls present much to laugh about at the expense of their nubile hearts. Instruction to audience: suspend reality.
Musically, Mozart has much fun in his composition of duets, trios, and sextets. The Met Chorus makes a couple appearances in finely composed great choruses to spark excitement. All at Maestro Levine's baton, the rhythmic accuracy is astounding and serves as the backbone of the musical pleasure. Supported by a text of seeming poetry the music guides the emotion of the work, from the declaration of love to sorrow, onto the lightness of new-found love.
There is not much work for a soprano versed in sustained top Cs, but coloratura leaps and trills are a constant feature. The girls sing some gorgeous duets that could be visually equated to synchronised swimming. The voices do a delicate dance in parts and stamp boots with contrasting tunes in others. There is lovely interplay of voice and emotion.
The orchestra supports in intricate perfection understanding that they are true accompaniment. At times, they almost disappear to the presence of voice so that the audience may enjoy the text as well as the vibrancy and dexterity of the vocal score.
The scenes transition easily with a grand set that is steep in detail but takes a back seat to the onstage action.
The more than three-hour long opera has its fair share of melodrama and is quite entertaining. There are a few slow scenes, but with a work set around a cast of six one can only expect this.
The Live in HD series ends on Saturday, with Rossini's La Cenerentola, which some say hark back to a Cinderella sketch with Romeo and Juliet inserts -- a sure spectacle.