Cher Public

Boy meets ghoul

“Zombies are impossible to escape these days — on television, film, video games, even reworkings of Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). And now New York City Opera has given us a “Così Fan Tutte” starring the undead.”  [New York Post]

  • Will

    I’ll just mention that Chris Alden’s production is about the more serious implications of the Cosi text, admittedly without any of the normally encountered elegance and witty artifice. This is NOT Alfred Lunt’s early 1950s vision of the opera. There was, however, a great deal of audience enthusiasm, sprinkled with a few boos to indicate that a nerve or two had been struck. The older couple sitting next to me were of divided opinion, the wife not particularly happy with the concept but the husband getting it with his comment, “This is a Cosi for New York today.”

    One point that I picked up on is that there was not the usual question at the end of who ends up with whom. The two men and the two women did not actually go near each other but stayed at opposite sides of the stage. So there is a third possibility for the four young people in this opera — what they have earned about themselves and each other has rendered any further relationship impossible and they will probably go their own ways, sadder and a lot wiser.

    • ianw2

      The older couple sitting next to me were of divided opinion, the wife not particularly happy with the concept but the husband getting it with his comment, “This is a Cosi for New York today.”,

      I wasn’t there (or WAS I?) but this reads eerily familiar. Maybe I’m just drunk.

    • mrmyster

      Will: That was the same ending Santa Fe did for a couple of seasons
      with the Jim Robertson Cosi a number of years ago — it sort of
      made sense in context, but it does not complete the symmetry that
      is at the heart of the structure of Mozart’s Cosi. I have always found
      Cosi a study in the breaking of symmetry — and its nominal
      restoration at the end. The music says it is more than “nominal,”
      that it is profound and sincere that the girls and boys get back
      together, as we found them at the start. But I can understand those
      who argue that it’s tongue-in-cheek all the way, and indeed
      the mock heroics of Fiordiligi and the over-done flirtatiousness
      of Dorabella open the door, at least a wee bit, for other
      approaches. One thing for sure about CFT: it really is a gestalt.
      Make of it what you will — but at the same time listen carefully
      to the music, for I think Mozart is really telling us in that what
      he had in mind. Thank you, that will be all for today! :)

  • Will

    Oh, one more thing. There certainly were a few loose ends in this production but it’s central point was clear. And the “new” coupes have sex with each other that is discovered by their original partners, which ed to some new readings of familiar arias. Dorabella’s “Amor’e un ladroncello” was not light and flirtatious but scared and angry. I can see not liking this Cosi fan Tutte, but I can’t see dismissing it.

    • kennedet

      One of the most delightful updated Cosi productions I witnessed was done in the 50’s era. The sisters wore poodle skirts, pop it beads and saddle shoes, the men were soldiers and returned disguised as Elvis Presley and James Dean. No dialogue was changed but parts of the score were cut tremendously. However, the story line was not sacrificed at any time. The audience loved it. I think the problem lies when when these directors don’t respect the Librettist enough and try to put their “spin” on the story for various and sundry reasons. Peter Sellars’ Cosi was much too psychologocal and if he didn’t explain it before the performance took place or if it wasn’t written in the program most of the audience would find it terribly difficult to follow.

      It reminds me of these DVD movies that require special features or commentary at the end if you want to understand it. The audience should not be forced to succumb to that in many cases.

      • armerjacquino

        If we’re on updated productions of COSI, this is where CF and I go on and on and on about David Freeman’s production for Opera Factory- still one of the best Mozart productions I’ve ever seen.

        • ianw2

          Personally, the Doris Dorrie Berlin production remains my favourite.

          • Clita del Toro

            I have a DVD of that Cosi--it’s a lot of fun. Love the sets and costumes.

          • Trouble is, it’s a Cosi without a Fiordiligi. And that never works for me.

          • ianw2

            You’re gonna have to help me out here CF. What is Dorothea doing, then?

          • Trying to sing this murderous role. It’s OK, it’s VERY musical (Roschman is a fine, fine musician) but the role ideally requires a combination of trumpet and clarinet. It was written for Ferrarese del Bene, reputedly a miraculous, if cold, machine a chanter. Beside the two extremely difficult arias, the really strenuous thing about the role is continuously holding the top line in all the ensembles. And the finale I stretto is MURDER, one of the most difficult things ever composed for the human throat.

          • ianw2

            But in 2002, wasn’t she considered one of the top Mozarteans? To suggest someone is singing too musically is a strange thing to say about Cosi, to my ears.

          • BTW most sopranos fake the unbelievably murderous passgae starting bar 546-556. a. because most of it is written in the middle of the voice and Dorabella screams top Gs, b. the clarinet doubles Fiordiligi’s line anyway c. there is no possible way to get all the patter and keep the breath until the end of the melisma. But the most difficult thing is keeping your stamina up until the beginning of finale II, esp the long section starting with “come mai”. But most theatres cut it anyway, even nowadays.

          • No I didn’t say she was too musical to sing Fior. Just that IMO she didn’t have the goods. And singing roles such as Fior and Vitellia (!!!) brought on her early demise. A lovely leggiero-cum-light lyric, the top (from G onwards) is hard, hard work. You can watch her having troubles with contessa, which really shouldn’t be a problem at all for her.

          • DurfortDM

            C/F, out of curiosity, which Fiordiligis do you like? Vaness was my first, I liked Renee *ducks*, Isokoski, Diener, Frittoli and AMM. Honestly can’t think of a singer who would sing a satisfactory Fior. Perhaps Harteros. Almost certainly Harteros. I don’t know what sort of Mozartian shape the above ladies would be in.

          • I tend to divide Fiordiligis into creamy-toned, Mozartian ones, who can somehow overcome the trumpety elements, but are rather more clarinet-like in their legato and singing style, and the more ‘trumpety’ kind. HMM. But the best of the lot to manage to combine both qualities.

            So I love Jurinac, Isokoski, AMM, Varady (astounding in the 70s), Souez, and I have a soft spot for Marshall, ‘my’ first Fiordiligi. Vanness I appreciate, but there’s too little variety, at least on record. Stich-Randall was good and Te Kanawa got away with it and had some special moments. Fleming had everything back in the 1990s, but wasn’t very sincere (or so I thought. on the Solti set what really pissed me off was the Dorabella of von Otter. Insufferable).

          • Sally Matthews had a suprisingly deep colour in Amsterdam and I can see how it worked for Frittoli, but not anymore. Yes Harteros is an interesting option (I like her very much) but her off-pitch singing is not really appropriate for Mozart anymore. Back in 1987 I saw Mattila live and she was wonderful. But on the recording she’s already too heavy. As I said, I really liked Erin Wall but she doesn’t have the chest voice for this (neither had Marshall, who very shrewdly used a mix and sang rather lightly : it worked). In no imaginable universe is Miah Persson a viable Fior : her live Met was rather a mess, almost consistently flat with nothing below middle C, and yet we have her on two commercial DVDs.

          • armerjacquino

            A few of my favourites missing there, CF- I’m a bit of a Cosi obsessive. On record I adore M. Price, despite Klemperer in stately mood, Caballe, Mattila, and above all Gens, who is definitive for me.

            But we’ll have to agree to disagree on a couple of things. I thought Von Otter was a perfect Dorabella when I saw her with Mattila years ago; meanwhile, Marshall’s CG Fior was one of the dullest pieces of singing I’ve ever seen. More recently, Gritton was glorious in an otherwise meh ENO production. I loved Persson on video, too, which I know you didn’t like- I don’t want or need a ‘trumpet’

          • armerjacquino

            Oh, we cross-posted. I can well believe that Persson won’t have been a great Fiordiligi at the Met; a daft role choice for her in a house of that size. But her Glyndebourne DVD is gorgeous.

            I’ve just remembered another glorious Fiordiligi: Danco.

          • I love these eternal Cosi discussions. You remind me of a dear friend of mine who’s also a Cosi obsessive. I didn’t hear M Price live, and don’t have the Klemperer but on the Mozart aria album she’s colder than cold and the Italian is really bizarre. Caballe! yes! surprising in almost every respect. Thank you for that. Gens strikes a case for ‘natural’ singing in this role, and on record it worked. I don’t know whether she essayed the role live. Rachel Yakar belongs to the same category. Gens is beautiful and sincere and has many fine moments but I don’t think it would have worked in the theatre.

            Yes Gritton, like Kurzak, has the ‘metal’. She’s an intelligent girl, even though her voice is slightly generic?

            Yes I follow your aesthetic reasoning, seeing Cosi as Harmoniemusik, requiring perfect blend and lovely instrumental timbres. Karajan tried to achieve this back in 1954 and Persson works in this kind of context. But the role is too exhausting, the way it’s written, for the more ‘instrumentally inclined’ voices. So I do need this kind of ‘trompeten’, esp in Come scoglio -- think of the scoring. It’s odd you don’t like Isokoski, as I think aesthetically she has most of the qualities I think you look for in this role.

          • DurfortDM

            Isn’t Marshall the Fior. on the Muti. Interesting also for James Morris as Guilguelmo.

            Schwarzkopf has all sorts of troubles beyond her usual proclivities.

            Forgot about Matthews. Never heard her except on the YouTubes from Amsterdam and she does seem very promising. MUCH more so than Perssen who seems to be, rather absurdly, ubiquitous in the role in all the major houses.

            Firttoli was superb in 98 and had some difficulty but was still excellent in 2005. I would think she’d have all sorts of problems now and got very poor reviews for her recent run in Vienna. I sincerely regret never having seen Mattila live in Mozart but yes, I did find her Cosi CD rather disappointing. I did like her as the Countess on the Mehta set.

            I liked Janowitz but while Veronique Gens seems vocally excellent I don’t find her at all interesting.

            I don’t think I’ve heard the Jurinac but that’s something I should have been on the look our for anyway, and all the more so after your recommendation.

            I also enjoyed Renee much more in person than on the CD.

          • Another lovely Fiordiligi : Susan Chilcott. Not entirely perfect, but sincere and personable, with the guts for it. And what a perfect cast that was back in 1997 (?) -- Graham, James, Trost, Keenlyside

          • DurfortDM

            Thanks C/F. Jurinac is amazing here. And VERY YOUNG. I can’t believe I never bothered to listen to this before. I adore her, love Cosi and for all its ensambleness, Fiordiligi owns this opera (or should), and an excellent one is absolutely essential.

          • armerjacquino

            Betsy- I adore Steber this side idolatory but have never heard a complete Fiordiligi from her (there are various English language pirates from the Met, that right?)

            She certainly had all you need for Fiordiligi- beauty of tone, flexibility, an easy top, power as well as delicacy. She and Vaness have always struck me as very comparable singers, and there’s been plenty of Vaness-love in this thread.

          • rapt

            AJ, I think the 1952 recording (in English) is a studio recording (haven’t heard it, though).

          • brooklynpunk

            For dearest BABS..

            .. for some reason..( surely something lacking in myself..) it has taken me a very long time to warm up to much of Mozart’s operatic opus (his Chamber works are another story…).. but , as has happened for me a number of times in the past, the first time I FINALLY “got” “Cosi” was at a student production , at Manhattan School of Music, about three years ago

        • Amen. And Mary Angel sang like one (what became of her? She sang in the Prospero’s Books Nyman OST).

          And I also absolutely love the Hermann Salzburg production. Teh one originally starring Bartoli and Kozena. On the DVD they had people who could really SING this music : AMM, Koch, Mathey, Degout, Sir Thomas (yeah well Alfonso is an ensemble role) and the brilliant, once in a lifetime Despina of Helen Donath, her voice miraculously preserved.

          • armerjacquino

            Since you mention Bartoli, her Zurich Fiordiligi on DVD ain’t half bad.

          • Well on the Bartoli issue (as with von Otter and Marshall) we’ll agree to disagree. I thought the Zurich Cosi was a disaster, in the female departement at least :)

          • Krunoslav

            My best Fiordiligis have been Lorengar at the Met and Vaness in San Diego (with Forst, Bonney, Our Own Keith Lewis and Hagegard, Peter Strummer the odd man out from an otherwise international-level cast the kind of which San Diegans can barely dream now-- and just last year Ana Maria Martinez at Ravinia, superb in the role. Also quite impressive: Stella Zambalis at Kentucky Opera, Melissa Citro with SFO’s touring Western Opera Theater.

            Renee’s Met Fiordiligi was the first time I noticed that her thitherto strong middle register was becoming whippped cream.

        • The Chereau / Harding from Aix is a very serious take, for once. A production I have immense respect for. But Bonney sounds worn and Raimondi keeps improvising which is an outrage of sorts. Mathey and Degout are rather brilliant here, as well as on the Salzburg DVD, and Erin Wall is touching. Garanca is simply perfect as Dorabella, An immensely difficult role to cast well.

          • I didn’t like this production much but Garanca is breathtaking IMHO.

          • Porgy Amor

            I didn’t care for this either, louannd. It’s the only time to date that a Chéreau production has left me cold. I was all for taking the opera seriously, and his thoughts in the production notes were promising. But I think he relied too much on that basic frame of mind to do the work, and the results were cheerless and airless. Three hours of dull people looking concerned or stricken is as deadening (and pushy) as the comedic clichés to which it provides an alternative.

            Some of the singing on the DVD release was very fine, though, especially that of Garanca and Degout.

        • A. Poggia Turra

          I haven’t watched it all, but based on YouTube fragments, I like what Adrian Noble did last year at the Opéra National de Lyon:

          (The tenor is the son of soprano Renate Behle)

          • Thank YOU A. pogg. I was going to post about this production, but I saw your post. This is certainly the best production of Cosi I have seen (I do love the Vaness/Hadley/Mentzner/Croft/Allen on the Met player) lately. It flowed very nicely which with Cosi always seems to be problem.

          • I did see the whole thing when it was available on line. Amusing touches throughout and a nice performance from Maria Bengtsson who I prefer over Miah Persson.

          • The soave is a travesty, however. This conductor prefers the “breakneck speed” variety of Mozart tempos.

        • Enzo Bordello

          Aleksandra Kurzak was a superb Fiordiligi at Los Angeles Opera last fall. Somewhat lighter in tone and vocal weight than many of the ladies mentioned here but a superb virtuosa in the 2 arias. She is beautiful woman and very natural, engaging and funny onstage.

          • Yes I can see that : she has the ‘metal’ for the top line.

        • RosinaLeckermaul

          I totally agree about the Freeman production. It was the best I have seen if not the best I have heard.

  • kennedet

    Good to hear amerjacquino. Cosi is such a great work for the most beautiful ensembles. Soave sia il vento when sung sensitively is one of the most beautiful moments in opera. Incidentally, it was performed in English and many of the children were enjoying the performance, which is always encouraging.

  • brooklynpunk

    I found Mr. T’s last lines, in this review somewhat odd and jarring. He says that even if all four of the performances at The Lynch sell out, that would not equal ONE sold out House at The David Koch Theater ( NYCO’s former home). How often, even at he height of their “glory-days” at the old State Theater-- or even The City Center-- let alone the grim last year at The Koch-- did NYCO have a “full House”

    IMHO. it seemed like a pointless thing to say…..

    • Porpora

      I found the last paragraph quite interesting, the penultimate line being of particular mention.

      “If all four performances were to sell out, the total attendance would not equal one sold-out house at the company’s former home, the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. Is it a step toward a comeback? We shall see.”

      Does he mean the comeback of the company or a return to the former State Theatre? That’s what I’d like more clarification on. If it is the latter, could this be a hint from the current administration?

    • This is purely anecdotal, but a lot of my operagoing in the 1990s was spur-of-the-moment. I was living in a rented room only about 10 blocks from Lincoln Center and so my method was to stroll over about 20 minutes before curtain time and see what people were selling in the plaza, or, failing that, buying a cheap seat.

      I can recall quite a few nights when NYCO was sold out or at least so heavily sold that all that was available was an expensive and lousy orchestra seat way off to the side. Other nights I got in and the house was 90% or better, with that “full” feeling. (Of course during that same time the Met was selling out several times a week, and nobody thought that was anything strange.)

      Plus,in those days, a Mozart opera would get maybe 6 to 8 performances in a season, with each performance selling well, if not 100%. So we are looking at, in the course of only a little over a decade, a drop of something like 85% in attendance. That’s just mind-boggling, and that, I think, is what Tommasini is indicating.

      Look at it this way: Gotham Chamber Opera can schedule (and sell) six performances of Dark Sisters in the same venue where NYCO is playing Cosi for four.

      • Krunoslav

        Last night’s audience was so heavily “industry insiders” that I can’t imagine much income came in.

        I wonder if any of the NYCO’s current staff (average age 28 by the “high school dance” aspect of things last night in the lobby) or board, including Mr. Steel, could list the impressive cast of the company’s first COSI or has indeed heard of any of their names: Phyllis Curtin, Frances Bible, Judith Raskin, John Alexander, John Reardon, James Pease.

        • armerjacquino

          A touch of ageism? I’d heard of five of those six singers when I was 28, and I live three thousand miles away.

          • Krunoslav

            Armer, *als Kind* I actually heard them all except for Pease (who did have a UK career and is the Balstrode in Britten’s GRIMES recording)- and Raskin- also a Glyndebourne artist-- I only heard leading a master class.

            But my point was not that 28 year olds *couldn’t* have heard of them-- but that theparticular tweet-savvy 28 year olds working for this company--which only protests kept from dumpstering its archive of 65 years of world premieres and important singers and directors-- have probably not heard of them or any past NYCO singers beyond Sills, Domingo and Ramey. The company seems to have jettisoned its past and become a wanna-be hip production company.

            If they hired the 28 year old who know singers older and better than Dancin’ Danielle and singing and repertory it would be a step in the right direction. But Steel seems to have chased out anyone who knew more about the art form than he does, which is to say just about everyone.

        • RDaggle

          Your point eludes me —

          so, if that evening’s performance of Mozart is lame, the opera staff ought to be able to regale everyone with tales of the good old days?

          Yeah, that would bolster the company alright …

          • Krunoslav

            Of course opera must take place in the present moment, but I think it unfortuanate that an arts organization and its staff AND MANAGEMENT AND BOARD would be completely ignorant of its past: why the company was founded (it scarcely seemed “The People’s Opera” last night, with Austin Scarlett swanning past the Tisches), what careers and works it has launched, what standards and principles it has put forth. That helps not only artistic morale but audience building.

          • ianw2

            How dare Austin Scarlett desecrate the temple! He’s not one of the people for whom this opera was for! My pearls have evaporated!

          • Camille

            Don’t you worry ianw2, Tahiti is nearby.

            And at least it wasn’t this Austin:

          • brooklynpunk

            Austin Scarlett has ACTUALLY done quite bit of pattern- cutting and designs for opera company costume departments, both in the past --and currently,

            As for “swanning”…what exactly is that..??--something like --swimming…?-- or is his somewhat natural “flamboyance” not to your taste?

          • Camille

            Foxy Cleo vs. Austin:

            Still no sign of either swans or Scarlett

          • Camille

            “SWANNING AROUND”

            ed. note: wonderful phrase, should be used more often.

      • brooklynpunk

        La C:

        I will certainly agree with that the State Theater was, on a regular basis, more heavily packed in the 1970’s-’90’s, when I was attending NYCO on a much more regular basis then I did the Big House across the Plaza..

        I “understood” the gist of TT’s “comparison”..but I still fail to understand the reason for him feeling the need to make it…

        BTW,,,tickets for the Lynch performances seem ( at least to this poor soul..) INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE AND UNAFFORDABLE…

  • Nerva Nelli

    Kruno, I went last night too and arrived about 7:10, in time to catch a glimpse of the Man of Steel sneaking a piece or pizza off a paper plate by a side street door. That may speak to budget issues.

    Kind of hard to believe the amount of Tony-bait dangled in the deployment of Mr. Cutlip’s strapping bare body parts…

    JJ is right: the violin playing was shamefully thin-sounding. Performance worth hearing, occasionally some very good touches from Alden to balance the jejune nonsense (like Alfonso’s bear suit).

  • 98rsd

    Although the performance last night (Act I, at least) went well musically, what a depressing and alienating production. Charm and wit were in very short supply.

    • Porpora

      Conscious or not, “depressing and alienating” certainly has been the thread running through NYCO’s trajectory.

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    Camilla Tilling is to undertake Fiordiligi fairly shortly. That’ll be nice.

    I saw Roschmann (with Garanca) as Fiordiligi just before she was about to take 6 months off to try and work on her vocal issues. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was nevertheless a convincing and worthwhile interpretation which I enjoyed and was moved by. I’d actually say she had an easier time of it than she did with her Countess, even if her feet did actually leave the ground when she was going for top bs, as if being physically higher up would somehow help!

    Bystrom recently really impressed me too. She needs time to refine her interpretation and get a little more dignity into it, but Miller’s production wasn’t helping with that.

  • No zombies, but a review of Thursday night’s Così on Superconductor. I didn’t love the production but I got where Alden was taking it. The orchestra had a decent evening for once….

    • brooklynpunk

      Thanks, once again, for a very well-written review, Superconductor…!

      And, it was nice to read one that was centered on the particular production and performance,without having to burden us with the unfortunate “backstory” of the Company, which is known all too well, by now…….