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The ladies in question

There is a truism that there are no small parts, only small singers. Last night’s Così fan tutte has made me consider another possible truism: there are no bad productions, only miscast productions. 

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Così fan tutte debuted in 1996 with an all-star cast of Carol Vaness, Suzanne Mentzer, Cecilia Bartoli, Jerry Hadley, Dwayne Croft and Thomas Allen. It was a Big Deal Production at the time, and the physical aspect of the production has held up better than many other productions of a certain age. The sets are a nice representation of sunny Italy, and the interiors of the sisters’ house suggest spoiled, rich girls who lived in a beachside resort. However, years have passed and the original blocking is all but extinct. What remains is an amusing but somewhat unimaginative take on Mozart/da Ponte’s delightfully subversive comedy.

It’s almost a checklist Cosi: all the things you “expect” to see onstage in a Così fan tutte production happen exactly so. Men wearing all white in the opening scenes? Check. (Seriously—why is this a Così tradition?) A Despina who mugs in ridiculous disguises? Check. Silly sisters that are determined to pout and simper through life? Check. A sudden, smiley ending? Check.

In order to make this particular conception of Così work, you need to have a cast that is believably young enough that all the partner musical chairs can be chalked up to extreme immaturity. I once compared the Così lovers to the Instagram teens who feel the need to add about a million selfies a day of themselves and their beloved, with cloying sentiments like “I lllllloooovvvvvveeee youuuuuuu myyyyyyyy sexxxxxxyyyyyy boooooooo !!!!!!!!!!!! <3<3<3.”

The lovers don’t realize that this kind of infatuation is not unique, and it’s not special, and it doesn’t last. The ambiguity of the ending to me isn’t about who ends up with whom, but whether the quartet has really matured from the day’s escapades, or whether they’ll just repeat the same infatuated nonsense all over again.

The awkwardness that’s often present in Così productions is that you have rather mature singers acting the part of infatuated teens, and the result is a rather long, unfunny evening. Last night’s performance at the Metropolitan Opera was not just a textbook example of ensemble singing, but also a strong defense of its own Così production. The laughs were constant throughout the evening, and the performers sold the idea of Così as a light comedy better than so many previous, starrier casts. The evening bubbled along like champagne and only the mass exodus to catch the trains when the curtain fell reminded us that this was an almost four hour opera.

Guanqun Yu deserves a lion’s share of the credit for the success of the evening. Two years ago I saw her in a Leonora that was simply “nice” and “promising.” I think she was a little over parted. Her Fiordiligi, however, was superb in every way. First of all, she’s not a prima donna acting young. She is young, and she really played up the vain, somewhat shallow side of Fiordiligi. But she was never obnoxious—this Fiordiligi was a little too stuck on her own good looks and romantic ideals, but Yu was adorable. She’s also extremely pretty.

Yu’s voice is almost everything the part needs. It’s gained a lot in terms of volume and presence, and the voice itself is lovelier than ever: creamy and full in the upper and middle registers, but she has a stronger lower register than Susanna Phillips (the prior Fiordiligi of the run). Her voice doesn’t disappear during parts of “Come scoglio” or “Per pieta.” Her singing has a cleanness and joy that sounds so right in Mozart. Nice trill too.

But there wasn’t a weak link in the entire cast. It was, as I said, ensemble singing at its finest—everyone was involved, everyone added energy and fun to the stage business, even if the stage business is about the same stage business we’ve seen in, well, every Così production. Matthew Polenzani (Ferrando) can often be wooden onstage, but not tonight—he was very funny, and his singing of Mozart is always remarkable for its stylishness. “Un aura amorosa” even ended with a nice trill.

The other pair of lovers (Isabel Leonard as Dorabella, Rodion Pogossov as Guglielmo) were vocally less glamorous but as I said, totally charming. Leonard looks and sounds more mature than Yu, and in this performance Dora was actually the more serious of the sisters, while Fiordiligi was younger and flightier, at least in Act One. But the chemistry between the sisters was such that the switch in traditional roles was completely believable.

Pogossov has a weird voice. If ever there was a baritenor, it would be him. He has the range of a baritone but the timbre of a tenor. More of a character singer than leading man, but as I said, funny and involved.

Don Alfonso (Maurizio Muraro) played his part more like an opera buffa character than a malignant schemer, but as I said, when performers can sell a concept of an opera as well as the cast did last night, I didn’t find myself missing the more ambiguous, darker interpretations. Muraro’s voice also falls into the “character baritone” category, but whatever, it worked. So did Danielle de Niese’s Despina. I didn’t mind her mugging at all—I thought she made the most of the role, and that her voice sounded warmer and less scratchy than it has in the past. Her three short solos were funny and to the point.

A few weeks ago there was a lot of criticism of James Levine’s conducting in Così fan tutte. It’s true that it’s very old-fashioned—no appogiaturas, no cadenzas, no ornamentations, and an approach that might in the old days be called “leisurely.” But he also really knows how to handle this score. He can highlight the simpler beauties of Mozart’s melodic line whereas more Historically Informed Performances often favor an aggressive, driven approach that are more exciting, but less beautiful.

Levine’s made it clear that he considers Così a comedy with an optimistic ending (he cites the C-major key in support). There are plenty of darker, more complex takes on Così fan tutte available on video. Last night’s cast made the best possible case for Levine’s approach to the opera. They were funny, energetic, and engaging. When the curtain fell, you had the feeling that these lovers were as immature as ever, but it was, as I said, optimistic.

93 comments

  • 1
    Poison Ivy says:

    On youtube there are some videos of the original cast. Here is the ending. It’s kind of hard to tell what’s happening though because the entire video is so focused on Cecilia Bartoli at all times:

  • 2
    kennedet says:

    Cieca, I found your analysis of the voices extremely interesting. Mozart must have written the score for the singers expressively given to him. The Despina harmony parts are written under the Fiordiligi and Dorabella in the score!! Yet, it’s normally cast by a much lighter soprano. Also, Don Alfonzo parts are written above Guglielmo, yet the role is normally cast as a Bass. I find this baffling. How can you achieve a blend and balance with this kind of vocal arrangement? Does this mean that the roles have been cast incorrectly? Should Don Alfonzo be a light baritone and Despina a lyric mezzo? Also, Dorabella lies very high in the mezzo range.

    • 2.1
      bluecabochon says:

      Kennedet, I think you meant Ivy, not Cieca…?

    • 2.2
      mjmacmtenor says:

      The first Gugliemo, Francesco Benucci, was also the first Figaro in Nozze. He also sang Leporello in the Vienna premiere of Don Giovanni. These roles (and the range of Gugliemo -- C to E with a lot of Es) would seem to indicate a Bass-baritone. The first Don Alfonso, Francesco Bussani, was also the first Bartolo and Antonio in Nozze. He was also Figaro in Paisiello’s Barber of Seville, but that was years before. Both men seem to have had similar voices, but Francesco B (the Don Alfonso) was considerably older. As for the original Despina, she had originated the role of Cherubino, so that would indicate a sort of high mezzo or lower soprano. She, Dorotea Bussani, was also the real life wife of the (mic holder) Don Alfonso. The first Dorabella, Luise Villeneuve, was possibly the real life sister of Adriana Gabrielli.the first Fiordiligi. Mozart wrote several insertion arias for her (Villeneuve). They seem to indicate the she did have a somewhat lower range (low soprano, high mezzo), but all 3 women’s roles are listed as soprano -- thanks to Jane Glover and her excellent book Mozart’s Women for the back story.
      I can think of several mezzos that have played Despina -- Agnes Baltsa, Anne Murray . They have also brought the perspective of an “older and wiser” woman to the role. As for Don Alfonso vs. Gugliemo, I think the most important thing is the age difference. Thomas Allen would be a good example of a baritone Don Alfonso.
      Another “curiosity” is that the original Fiordiligi had previously sung Zerlina and Susanna. We would associate these roles today with a Despina and would expect a Fiordiligi to play the Countess and one of the Donnas (Anna or Elvira).

    • 2.3
      Regina delle fate says:

      Kennedet -- Dorabella was written for what we would now call a soprano and the fact is that few mezzos -- Bartoli the inevitable exception -- attempt to sing the “concert” or insertion arias that Mozart wrote for the first Dorabella, Luisa Villeneuve. It has become a convention, presumably for contrast’s sake, to cast Dorabella with a soprano although Bartoli has pointed out that both Despina and Fiordiligi lie lower in tessitura. The first almost complete recording from Glyndebourne has a soprano, Luise Helletsgruber, who also sang Cherubino and Donna Elvira there, and more recently Marie McLaughlin and Rosa Mannion have recorded the role. There are many examples of mezzo Despinas, Jane Berbié, Anne Howells and Ann Murray (all three also sang Dorabella) so clearly Mozart was writing for specific singers rather than voice-types and there is no “right” voice for this or that role. Sena Jurinac and Bartoli are examples of singers who have sung both Fiordiligi and Dorabella, while Bartoli has the hat-trick of singing all three female roles in Cosi fan tutte on stage.

      • 2.3.1
        Regina delle fate says:

        oops -- I meant a convention cast Dorabella with a mezzo! Sorry.

      • 2.3.2
        DellaCasaFan says:

        “clearly Mozart was writing for specific singers rather than voice-types and there is no “right” voice for this or that role”

        This is an excellent point, Regina. All these interesting biographical details surely support it. But then it throws out the idea, which I thought plausible until now, that one of Mozart’s musical jokes and twists in Cosi was to pair the “wrong” voice-types as lovers (soprano/baritone, mezzo/tenor) only to switch them to the “matching” ones during the disguise. I find much of it persuasive in the view that Mozart made the disguised lovers a better musical match (in particular, Fiordiligi and Ferrando) but this voice-type reason seems less credible now.

        • 2.3.2.1
          Regina delle fate says:

          Not only that, DellaCasaFan, but the “wrong” partners clothes fit each other: as Fiordiligi sings “L’abito di Ferrando sara buono per me, puo Dorabella prender quello di Guglielmo”. In a century which set so much store by the significance of clothes, including masquerade and disguise, this strongly hints that Mozart thinks that Fiordiligi and Ferrando are better suited to each other. They are also more the high-minded couple, Dorabella and Guglielmo earthier and flightier. Così fan tutte is an ever-fascinating and changeable opera.

          • armerjacquino says:

            They are also more the high-minded couple, Dorabella and Guglielmo earthier and flightier

            Compare ‘Fra gli amplessi’ and ‘Il Core vi Dono’ . In the former, sex is dangerous; in the latter it’s fun.

    • 2.4
      UpB7 says:

      For the roles of Despina, Don Alfonso, and even Guglielmo and Dorabella, casting of these roles can be and has been done practically across the board for the past few decades through to the present.

      Despina has many times been sung by a lighter soprano, however, it’s very frequently cast with either sopranos and mezzos of all kinds.
      Despina has been cast with…
      -- full lyric sopranos:
      (e.g. Teresa Stratas, Marie McLaughlin, & Nuccia Focile)
      -- light lyric sopranos:
      (e.g. Danielle DeNiese, Kathleen Battle, & Lisa Otto)
      -- lyric coloratura sopranos:
      (e.g. Patricia Petibon, Roberta Peters, & Patrice Munsel)
      -- light lyric coloratura sopranos:
      (e.g. Reri Grist & Erika Koeth)
      -- lyric mezzos:
      (e.g. Cecilia Bartoli, Eirian James, Ruxandra Donose, Monica Bacelli, & Serena Malfi [Malfi will sing Cherubino in Figaro at next season’s new Met production.])
      -- dramatic mezzos:
      (e.g. Agnes Baltsa)

      Don Alfonso has been cast all the time with basses, baritones, and bass-baritones:
      -- basses:
      (e.g. Jules Bastin, John Cheek, & Richard Van Allan)
      -- baritones:
      (e.g. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Rod Gilfrey, & John Brownlee)
      -- bass-baritones:
      (e.g. Michele Pertusi, Carlos Chausson, & Ruggero Raimondi)

      Guglielmo, also, to an extent, usually sung by either baritones or bass-baritones…
      -- baritones:
      (e.g. Herman Prey, Nathan Gunn, and Thomas Allen)
      -- bass-baritones:
      (e.g. Richard Bernstein & Wladimiro Ganzarolli)

      Dorabella, too, has been sung by singers of a variety of fachs -- mostly mezzos of different sorts, but occasionally sopranos as well:
      -- lyric mezzos (the most usual):
      (e.g. Frederica von Stade, Magdalena Kozena, Teresa Berganza, & Isabel Leonard)
      -- dramatic mezzos:
      (e.g. Blanche Thebom, Christa Ludwig, & Agnes Baltsa)
      -- lyric sopranos:
      (e.g. Marie McLaughlin and Rosa Mannion)

  • 3
    meowiaclawas says:

    Oh. Mah. Gawd, Becky. Pogossov tap dances while singing “Largo al factotum”! Go directly to 4:08 for the tap dancing…its actually pretty cute. Oh, yeah, and he does sound like a tenor, the timbre of the voice has a bright quality on vowels with a distinct tenorial sound…:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_kqct9mZJE

    • 3.1
      Poison Ivy says:

      That’s cute! Here’s him singing Rodrigo/Posa. Again, he really does have a tenor-like timbre:

      • 3.1.1
        kennedet says:

        Really Ivy! That timbre sounds much too dark to “have a tenor-like timbre”. Also, I think the pronounced vibrato would cause too many problems in a higher range.

        • 3.1.1.1
          Poison Ivy says:

          I guess you have to hear him in the house. He definitely doesn’t have the rich, mellifluous, deep timbre of a baritone.

          • mia apulia says:

            The bottom of the voice sounds artificially darkened to be more like a baritone, and the top does sometimes (but inconsistently) sound like a tenor. One wonders if with some retraining he could sing more profitably as a tenor, but it’s probably too late in his career to expect that such a thing would happen.

          • UpB7 says:

            Not all lyric baritones have deep or dark timbres.

            There have been and there are nowadays a number of operatic lyric baritones who have brighter and lighter-colored timbres than other operatic lyric baritones.
            For example, Johnanes Weisser is an operatic lyric baritone, noted for his Don Giovanni. Some people have described him as sounding like a tenor.

  • 4
    Lady Abbado says:

    Jonas Kaufmann sixteen years ago: Cosi fan tutte -- Un aura amorosa!

    • 4.1
      Poison Ivy says:

      This is also quite beautiful:

      • 4.1.1
        la vociaccia says:

        Wow, that is pretty amazing. Much better than the live videos of him doing it in recitals, where his phrasing always sounds stiff and square.

        This is my favorite though:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in7Nhn1H7Zs&feature=youtube_gdata_player

        • 4.1.1.1
          Poison Ivy says:

          That is excellent but the upward transposition sounds odd.

          This is a very Oh.my.god. version:

          • Flora del Rio Grande says:

            la vocia: Nice! I liked Simoneau and he had the right voice for
            the Mozart tenor arias. I wonder if this is not a live recording?
            There are a couple of moments of uncertainty between singer
            and orch., and L. S. tends to sing certain ‘a’ and ‘o’ vowels
            sounding too much alike, and as long as I am carping, he does
            aspirate a vowel here and there. But hell with that; in an opera
            house performance he would get and deserve a good round of
            applause for this. Better, for me, is the (still) gorgeous Mozart
            singing of Ramon Vargas — did you hear his Don Ottavio live
            from the Met two seasons ago? — simply perfect, a technical
            dream, but warm and lovely. I was knocked out. And. . .you
            may not believe this, but hearing Richard Tucker sing “My love
            is a flower. . .” six times in the Met’s new production of Cosi,
            first since the 1920s, in 1952, was also a singularly fine experience.
            He was partnered with the very full-voiced Eleanor Steber and their
            Act II duet was so very fine — amazing. The audience applauded
            endlessly. All very thrilling for me, an innocent college lad in those
            days. It was quite surprising how easily Tucker sang “Un aura. . .”
            and attests his true tenor placement and technical health. What
            a superior singer he was, and Steber was at his level, at least in
            her healthier days. Such memories!!!! When opera was new and
            fresh and so was this avid listener! These days it’s Beethoven
            Sonatas and a nap for this old pilgrim.
            Flora del Rio Grande

            • mjmacmtenor says:

              Steber and Tucker were not the only “full voiced” singers in this great cast (fortunately captured on a recording). The Dorabella, Blanche Thebom, was also a celebrated Eboli and Brangane. Leontyne Price and Tatiana Troyanos were a later Met pair of sisters who were also known for repertoire calling for “larger” voices.
              Since many singers cross between Mozart and Stuass, I wonder how many Cosi sisters have also appeared together as the
              Marschallin and Octaviain (Schwartzkopf and Ludwig come to mind)?

            • Buster says:

              Janowitz and Fassbaender.

            • Buster says:

              Te Kanawa and von Stade?
              Te Kanawa and von Otter?

            • armerjacquino says:

              Seefried and Jurinac maybe?

              There you’d have the possibility of a Marschallin as Dorabella and an Oktavian as Fiordiligi!

              Then you have the Fiordiligi/Sophies, like Persson and Stich-Randall…

            • Buster says:

              Te Kanawa and Troyanos!

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Lott and Murray, Tomova-Sintov and Von Otter, Fleming and Susan Graham

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Della Casa and Jurinac also works. Della Casa is one of the Rosenkavalier hat-trick ladies along with Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Söderström and Evelyn Lear. I was really surprised to discover that Lear had sung Sophie, but apparently she did in her early career.

              For many years, Seefried and Jurinac were rival Octavians, and Jurinac sang Dorabella to Seefried’s Fiordiligi -- in her autobiography Jurinac complains that she could never sing Fiordigili in Vienna because the role was “reserved” there for Seefried, Schwarzkopf and Della Casa so she sang it at Glyndebourne -- but Seefried never sang the Marschallin, she would have sung Octavian to Jurinac’s Marschallin after 1966.

        • 4.1.1.2
          kennedet says:

          Thanks, vociaccia. This is how I want to start my day.

    • 4.2

      This has always baffled me. He has stated that he thought his voice had a “Peter Schreier” quality to it that he didn’t like and that is the reason why he sought retraining.

      If i am not wrong, this is from the period before he relearned his technique and the sound is beautiful. I would even go as far as saying the singing is more natural and the sound not as artificial. No, it is not perfect, but still a major instrument. I have to say i like this better than some of the stuff he is doing now.

      • 4.2.1
        Batty Masetto says:

        Lindoro, no, you’ve missed part of the story – the reason he sought retraining was that he was losing his voice. He’s said he literally couldn’t sing some nights. So as natural and “correct” as it may sound, this was an utterly wrong method of production for him.

        Both Kaufmann and Zajick have talked about how conventional methods of voice teaching can be wrong for big, unconventional voices like theirs, and I keep wondering whether the dearth of Verdi and Wagner voices today might not be down in part to a kind of established doctrine about vocal production in the academic voice teaching community that is extremely good and healthy for certain kinds of voices – witness the current Golden Age for some kinds of coloratura singing – but harmful for others.

        • 4.2.1.1
          la vociaccia says:

          Batty, I’ve said it earlier, but I’m positive he was losing his voice because he sang off support, not because his technique was simply incompatible with his voice. He just had, like a lot of precocious high tenors, bad breathing habits, and I don’t think the solution was to radically change his vocal production, rather he needed to get his voice better supported. I’m not c

          • la vociaccia says:

            ..convinced that his instrument was so unusual in anatomy and scope that it defied logical technique; it was just an excellent lyric tenor that needed better support. There had to have been middle ground between the dangerous and high singing in that Manon video and the way he sings now.

      • 4.2.2
        la vociaccia says:

        Lindoro, this Cosi video is from 1998; he changed his technique years before this. The only document of his real, Peter Schreier voice, is in this video:

        • 4.2.2.1
          aulus agerius says:

          Well, here’s another: an early Student Prince.
          http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDZofkzG8uk

          • Rackon says:

            Aulus: well, not quite.

            That Student Prince video is from summer 1997, only 6 months before the Cosi was recorded, and already 2.5 years into the retool under Michael Rhodes (which commenced early 1995).

            I read an interview with JK recently where he flat out said he has not/did not/does not manipulate his voice to sound “darker”. Take it as you will.

            I think the man sings in his “real voice”.

  • 5
    Flora del Rio Grande says:

    Ivy: Upward transposition by Simoneau? What, one-half tone? I did not
    catch that and I have pretty good pitch. My old voice teacher Chabay used
    to have me sing ‘Un aura,’ and insert a Bb near the end in that string
    of high tones -- whew! A stunt and not a good one.
    I am a little surprised Simoneau did not give us better vowels (a la
    Gedda) and more real legato. Did you ever hear Frank Lopardo in
    his prime sing Mozart arias? Golly! His voice was a big lyric with
    some darker qualities, yet free, open and poised at the top, and
    he could spin a melting legato. At its best, his was one of the most
    beautiful tenor voices I have ever heard in lyric repertory. Retired
    now, I guess. His tone was spectacularly beautiful; ever hear him
    live?

    • 5.1
      Krunoslav says:

      Lopardo-- the first person Gekb dismissed, wasn’t he? — was a superb Tito.

      Speaking of fine Mozart tenor singing--plus which, Croft actually bothers to act the arias convincingly, which so few Belmontes can do:

    • 5.2
      manou says:

      I absolutely love Lopardo in Mozart and especially in Così and did hear him live a few times here in London.

    • 5.3
      Poison Ivy says:

      Simoneau transposes it up a bid tone. Lovely performance either way.

    • 5.4
      laddie says:

      Lopardo is apparently mostly teaching now. He imparts his teaching philosophy daily on Facebook. He actually has a quite a following on Facebook.

  • 6

    e has the range of a baritone but the timbre of a tenor

    could we have a helden tenor in the making? Not the first time a tenor has started their careers as a baritone.

    • 6.1
      kashania says:

      No, not Pogossov. I’ve heard him as Figaro (Rossini) and Papageno. It’s a lyric instrument through and through.

  • 7
    DeepSouthSenior says:

    Thank you so much, Ivy! I was in the house last Saturday night, May 3rd. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve ever had in the theatre or concert hall. Everything you said about the performance and the cast matched my experience exactly. Many times (too many-I envy your skill) I said to myself, “I wish I’d written that.” I mentioned to several people that night, and then to Mrs. DeepSouth back home, that the performance I saw in the theatre was far superior to the Live in HD a week earlier. I said, too, that I much preferred Guanqun Yu to Susanna Phillips in this role at this time (although I like Susanna a lot). Ditto your comments about Matthew Polenzani; the opera gods have been especially kind to him lately.

    I expect to see few performances in my life to match the sharpness and precision of Act I that Saturday night. Another word comes to mind: “Crisp.” Far from a certain sluggishness I noted in the Live in HD, everyone (including Levine and the orchestra) was spot-on, from the comic timing to the arias to the exquisite ensemble singing. For once, the entire work seemed to me like a great masterpiece rather than a succession of excellent numbers. Even the Overture seemed to inhabit a different sound-world from the week before -- and this from the very first bars. As so often happens, Act II wasn’t quite up to A+ standards, but it was very, very good.

    Best of all, everyone on stage seemed to be having one heck of a good time at the top of their game, and they let the audience know it. I can remember a few days like that in my own mundane profession (accounting, financial management and reporting in the public sector). There are those times when everything “clicks,” you’re running on all cylinders, you feel that nothing can go wrong and you could take on the toughest challenge with ease. In other words, every job has those rare moments when you say to yourself, “Damn, I’m good!” I hope that everyone on the stage and in the pit for Cosi felt that way for the final two performances.

    • 7.1
      Poison Ivy says:

      Hi Deep South Senior! So glad to hear you had fun on your trip to NYC. What else did you see?

      • 7.1.1
        DeepSouthSenior says:

        Yes, last week was an enjoyable solo trip to NYC, one of several retirement presents to myself. Four Met performances in three days, May 1-3.

        Thursday night, May 1st: Butterfly, with Hui He, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Maria Zifchak, Dwayne Croft. Sad to day, I was totally unaffected by the performance. I mean zero, zip. Nothing. It could have been my hectic day, 2+ hours drive to the New Orleans airport, three hours nonstop to La Guardia, taxi ride to Upper West Side, check in, rush, rush, rush. Surely the show was better than it seemed to me. All of the people are “top” professionals, after all. None of the singers registered with me, however. I could barely hear Jones as Pinkerton all night. My attention wandered constantly. Rather than the action (or lack of it) on stage, I was more interested in glancing at the German subtitles selected by the two women from Germany sitting next to me in the Grand Tier box. The puppet was the most animated character on stage. Some of the colors were real pretty, though, and they waved a lot of cool stuff around. Overall Grade = C. Taking into account my weariness, C+. (Additional factor: I don’t much like this opera, anyway.)

        Friday night, May 2nd: Cenerentola, with, well, you know who. A good time was had by all. Florez got his encore. Distressingly for me, Joyce D. sang “Non piu mesta” WAY too fast. For me, the glory of this piece lies by way of leisurely allegretto savoring every note, not rapid-fire frantic allegro. It struck me almost as a “throwaway” rather than The Big Number. (I don’t know the tempo marking, if any, in the score.) Joyce was nearly flawless, but because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. She also seemed just a wee bit “off” all night, though I really can’t pinpoint how. I’m interested in hearing how fast she sings in the Live in HD. (Mrs. DeepSouth and our daughter are enjoying a Mother’s Day girls’ afternoon out right now, so we’ll catch the repeat on Wednesday.) Overall Grade for May 2nd = A-.

        Saturday matinee, May 3rd: Puritani. Enough has been said about this already. I like but am not overwhelmed by either Peretyatko or Brownlee. Kwiecien was excellent. I could hear everyone just fine from Orchestra Row F, except occasionally Peretyatko’s lower register disappeared beneath the orchestra. Overall Grade: B+.

        Saturday night, May 3rd: Cosi. An exceptional evening (see above). Overall Grade: A.

        I varied my seats to check out locations: Orchestra rows F and G left and right, near the outside, front row of Grand Tier Boxes left and right, farthest from the stage. Best sound of all was Grand Tier Box on the right.

        As I write this, I’m listening to Berlin Philharmonic live concert on Digital Concert Hall. Life is good.

        • 7.1.1.1
          DeepSouthSenior says:

          Permit me a couple of shameless hetero eye-candy remarks. Joyce DiDonato looked quite fetching in her brown Angelina “housemaid” dress in Cenerentola. Much cuter than the gowns. Almost erased my memories of Elena Garanca from 2009 in the same outfit. Almost, but not quite. And Olga Peretyatko? As we might say down here in the Deep South, “You see that Olga Parrot-lady? Now, there’s one fine-lookin’ woman.”

          • Poison Ivy says:

            Hi DeepSouth, glad you got to see so much opera over the weekend! I think Joyce decorates “Non piu mesta” with some nice triplets and stuff, I don’t think it’s too fast. Her Angelina during this run was awfully serious and a bit staid. I thought the energy level in her singing was superb, but she seemed a bit low-key.

  • 8
    redbear says:

    Warning. Rant. The late and much lamented Gerard Mortier (lamented at least in Europe) made a particular point of not focusing on the star system of voices. He considered opera to be a creative art and not something where you just rearrange the furniture. I remember the Janacek Makropulos from Paris staged by Warlikowski (Anyone remember Janacek? He was once a famous composer.) There was a giant King Kong, a Faye Ray, and the love duet was in a public restroom. It was revived last September and very popular with the audience. Opera as art. (I happened to just now read a hostile review of the recent Frieze Art Fair -- the same-old and nothing outrageous and worthy of attention. That reviewer probably has never been to the Met -- the idea would never enter her head.) I did enjoy the clips, however. Thanks.

  • 9
    NPW-Paris says:

    It’s a shame that Makropoulos isn’t available.

  • 10
    armerjacquino says:

    Interesting as ever, Ivy. Your view of the characters in COSI is certainly a valid one, but like all great works I think it can lend itself to more than one interpretation. For me, the music itself suggests- in the second half at least- that we’re dealing with something more than the transient infatuations of teenagers. ‘Per Pieta’ has a richness and maturity of feeling to it, and there’s something very adult and very complex about both Ferrando’s seduction and Fiordiligi’s capitulation in ‘Fra gli Amplessi’. CF and I have banged on in the past about David Freeman’s Opera Factory production, which did a brilliant job of treating the characters as adults- deeply self-involved adults at the start, and very confused ones at the end. With all due respect to Mo. Levine, I think we’ve also reached a point where we can start providing music as well as text with a subtext. Yes, C Major is a joyous key, but doesn’t its very cheerfulness also lend itself brilliantly to the idea of the forced smile? The ensemble beforehand, from ‘Idol mio, se questo e vero’ doesn’t suggest unambiguous resolution to me.

    By the way, I’d KILL to see Ferrando and Guglielmo in white at the start- I think I’ve only ever seen them in army uniform.

    • 10.1
      kennedet says:

      At the risk of being drawn and quartered, I would shortened Cosi and perform it in English. “Ready,aim,fire”.

      • 10.1.1
        NPW-Paris says:

        Hanged first.

        • 10.1.1.1
          manou says:

          Not only that -- I would restore all the cuts as well and make it even longer.

          • kennedet says:

            Note to manou: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

            • manou says:

              kennedet -- you can speak Clita!

            • kennedet says:

              I have no idea to which you are referring Manou but if it’s to insult me or Clita, who I’m sure can speak for herself, please don’t bother.

              My comment to you meant that Cosi would be too long. Nothing more.

            • manou says:

              kennedet -- I would never insult you or Clita -- I was just remarking that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz is an integral part of Clita’s vocabulary.

            • Batty Masetto says:

              Kennedet, time to take that sensitometer into the shop for a quick recalibration. Manou doesn’t trade in insults.

            • Clita del Toro says:

              Manou, dear, you can insult me any time you wish! ;)

            • kennedet says:

              Scusatemi tutti, per favore. One cannot be too careful on this blog. And you know what I’m talkin’ bout. Am I riiiiiight?

          • m. croche says:

            I think Così could be made the first “shuffle” opera, wherein the numbers are performed in a different order each night. Singers will have to improvise motivations and reactions to the ever-changing plot configuration.

            Performing the opera in the Northern Sami language will still be optional.

            Afterwards, audience members will be encouraged to join the orchestra on stage for a post-opera soirée of smoked boar and taxi dancing,

            • manou says:

              I would be there in a heartbeat -- but would exchange the taxi dancing for taxi dermy.

        • 10.1.1.2
          kennedet says:

          Have mercy, NPW. I seriously meant no harm.

          I would do it in the 1950’s period (poodle skirts and pop it beads)and bring back Ferrando and Guglielmo disguised as James Dean and Elvis Presley. Am I still allowed to comment on this blog?….now that I have committed blasphemy. Actually, first time opera goers might love it! Get them anyway you can.

          • redbear says:

            Mozart would have liked that!

          • mjmacmtenor says:

            Considering the “being sent off to war” aspect, they could be sent off to Korea. An even more interesting update might be the 60s the boys being “drafted” to Vietnam. The boys could be straight laced Mad Men types and then come back disguised as long haired hippy flower children from Haight Ashbury (that’s next to Albania, right?). The two sisters get converted to “free love” and in the end they all decide to forego monogamy and start a commune. Besides, isn’t that one interpretation of Cosi -- that all women (and men) are fickle and that fidelity is an articificlal and unnatural state of being.

            • Poison Ivy says:

              The Berlin production (available on video) does have the sisters going from Betty Draper types to hippies. Fantastic production.

            • Krunoslav says:

              AVA did a 1950s/Korean War area production like that a dozen years ago set in South Philly, with the sisters sitting on the typical stoop. It was fun but it made zero sense that two lower middle class sisters would have a live-in maid, or indeed a maid at all.

              COSI may be the one Mozart opera I listen to on CD without skipping a single track. NOZZE DI FIGARO maybe sometimes, but I am not always up for the chorus’ Act One praise of the Count or (God help us) Basilio or Marceliina’s arias.

              Nothing I personally would cut from COSI; if the singers are not good in Italian, one could trim the recits a bit..

      • 10.1.2
        kashania says:

        Cosi has divine music that is all worth hearing. But as a piece of lyric theatre, it is waaay too long, IMO. Sitting through a 3.5 hour production can be trying. On recording, yes to uncut. On stage, cut, cut, cut!

        • 10.1.2.1
          kennedet says:

          Amen. Kashania.

        • 10.1.2.2
          armerjacquino says:

          Way too long if it’s done in the old, expansive way, certainly. But there’s always the option to make it zippier. The Jacobs version comes in at just a shade over 3 hrs- only ten minutes longer than your average NOZZE.

      • 10.1.3
        Flora del Rio Grande says:

        Kenne: I first memorized Cosi in the R. and T. Martin translation, and while I am a proponent of opera in the language of composition, I liked and like
        the Mozart comedies in the vernacular. I find Cosi just as easy to sing in English as in Italian. Yes, it’s too long; the disguise scene for Despina is one cut I would make for sure. By that time the audience is exhausted and ready for the denouement. No ready aim fire from me, Amigo; you are right on!
        (Of course I want to cut Nozzi also!)

        • 10.1.3.1
          armerjacquino says:

          How do you do the marriage without Despina-as-notary?

          • Flora del Rio Grande says:

            armer: actually I meant the Dr Fatalis/Magnetic scene. But, even so,
            I expect the Notary scene could be shortened too. Where is Bodansky
            when we need him? :)

        • 10.1.3.2
          kennedet says:

          Flora, we’ll do it for the kiddies if nobody else likes it. You should hear my pastiche for Rossini. I call it a Rossini Experiment.I start with the first scene from Cenerentola but when there is a knock on the door…. Figaro comes in and sings the largo al factotem.

          Manou please don’t read this.

          • Flora del Rio Grande says:

            kenne: I am ready any time. Why not offer it
            to the Santa Fe Opera? They seem a little short on
            ideas for their 2015 season (see website), but
            not short on money. God be praised! A rich opera
            company!

    • 10.2
      DellaCasaFan says:

      This is where my newbie Parterre experience gets in the way of knowing where to place my post. Like armerjacquino, I am also very much attracted to the interpretation that Cosi ends on an ambiguous note. The ambiguous ending in Haneke’s production that NPW-Paris mentions is one of the most brilliant directorial solutions I’ve seen in Cosi.

      • 10.2.1
        Poison Ivy says:

        I would say the Berlin Staatsoper production also does a good job writing ambiguity into the entire production as it’s about self discovery and liberation for the women.

  • 11
    NPW-Paris says:

    Michael Haneke’s carefully-crafted production, which I saw in Brussels, was very ambiguous.

  • 12

    No words are possible:

  • 13
    UpB7 says:

    In response to mjmacmtenor’s post, I think I have come up with a pair of singers who played the Cosi sisters and also played the Marschallin and Octavian.

    Lisa della Casa and Christa Ludwig.
    I think they played Marschallin and Octavian once at the Met, and they recorded Fiordiligi and Dorabella in one of Boehm’s studio recordings.

  • 14
    Poison Ivy says:

    Well, I went to the HD of Cenerentola to round out my frantic season of opera-going since this January:

    http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2014/05/golden-age-of-tenors.html

    • 14.1
      Poison Ivy says:

      I found this video from Pesaro, 1998. Juan Diego Florez. I must say, his timbre isn’t the most appealing but it’s remarkable that 15 years later he can still sing this role so well.

      • 14.1.1
        Rudolf says:

        Ivy, I think the sound source is sub par and does not capture Mr. Florez’ voice favourably. I heard him live in Vienna in “Semiramide”. And what a stunner he was. Unknown to the vast majority of the spectators. But within short he’d won us over. Also, it’s interesting to see and hear a younger Vesselina Katsarova as Angelina. Thanks for your post. :)