Così fan tutte’s focus on human behavior, emotions and foibles is independent of time and place. Phelim McDermott’s colorful setting in the amusement park of Coney Island in the 1950s provides added dimensions to the Da Ponte-Mozart masterpiece. McDermott adds a carnival of sideshow performers – contortionists, snake-charmer, sword-swallowers, fire-eater, strongmen, bearded-lady – quite entertaining but occasionally diverting attention from the singers. They also assist Don Alfonso in his efforts to win his wager with Ferrando and Guglielmo, Christopher Maltman well up to the task. Tom Pye’s set places a Ferris-wheel and rollercoaster behind a variety of movable objects, including heart-shaped portals to a tunnel of love, fortune-teller, and carousel horses. Even more effective is the Skyline Motel, each of its three units pivoting between interior and exterior, enabling clever staging reminiscent of a Feydeau farce. Laura Hopkins’s costumes successfully capture the 1950s’ look for Fiordiligi and Dorabella, and Ferrando’s and Guglielmo’s disguises as greasers, although their appearances do not change enough to conceal their identities from their fiancées. Hopkins goes over the top for Don Alfonso – including a baggy yellow suit – and a chartreuse cowgirl getup for Despina when she poses as a justice of the peace (a notary in the libretto).
Kelli O’Hara makes the transition from Broadway to opera successfully, but Despina’s two set-pieces don’t take full advantage of O’Hara’s talents. As “Dr. Magnetico” she is overpowered by an enormous rotating contraption that emits steam and sparks as it cures the poisoned men, and her pistol-packing persona as a marriage celebrant is out of place. The lovers are well-balanced, though, singing and acting effectively, Ben Bliss a standout as Ferrando, his ardent ‘Un’ aura amorosa’ a highlight, and Adam Plachetka is fine as the self-admiring Guglielmo. Serena Malfi expresses Dorabella’s altered outlook on life, and Amanda Majeski reflects Fiordiligi’s evolution from self-assurance to despair. However, having her sing an aria from a balloon that ascends and lands several times, when once would have been enough, made the music drag; otherwise David Robertson’s approach is bright and fast-paced, and when the plot takes a darker turn he brings out more-dramatic aspects.