Mostly Mozart in New York – Così fan tutte

Così fan tutte

Fiordiligi – Susan Gritton
Dorabella – Krisztina Szabó
Despina – Lillian Watson
Ferrando – Gordon Gietz
Guglielmo – Nathan Gunn
Don Alfonso – Andrew Shore

Members of Voices of Ascension

Les Violons du Roy
Bernard Labadie

Director – Jonathan Miller
Lighting Designer – Matt Frey
Set Consultant – J.W. Warkin
Costume Consultant – Helen Rodgers
Production Stage Manager – R. Michael Blanco

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 14 August, 2004
Venue: LaGuardia Concert Hall, New York City

Since the seventeen-year tenure of Gerard Schwarz ended two seasons ago, the once tired “Mostly Mozart at Lincoln Center”, a festival long established in New York, has been doing exceedingly well. Following the departure of Schwarz, the festival got a much-needed musical shot in the arm with the appointment of Louis Langrée, who took over as music director in December 2002. This summer’s edition of Mostly Mozart, the second with Langrée at the artistic helm, has its share of novelties, one of the most prominent being Jonathan Miller’s modern-dress production of Così fan tutte, the second fully-staged opera in the thirty-eight year history of the festival. (Il Re Pastore, led by Nicholas McGegan in the summer of 2003, was the first.)

Così fan tutte, a lusty tale of love and despair, the most intimate and emotionally complex of all Mozart’s operas, is perfectly suited to Jonathan Miller‘s thoughtful, psychologically penetrating style. The production for Mostly Mozart 2004 is not exactly new – Miller first fashioned it for Covent Garden in 1995, and it was presented at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music last year – but it features an attractive, charming and entirely new cast, and is exhilarating and thoroughly satisfying on nearly every count.

The production emphasizes the music and story rather than spectacular scenery. As directed by Miller, the story – two young officers (Ferrando and Guglielmo) are persuaded by a cynical old bachelor (Don Alfonso) to take on exotic identities to find out if their brides-to-be (Fiordiligi and Dorabella) are as faithful and virtuous as they believe – is a fast moving, thoroughly entertaining musical romp, full of hilarious visual images. Miller’s direction is inspired, and the acting far superior to what is usually seen in most non-musical theater.

The off-white minimalised set representing Fiordiligi and Dorabella’s apartment is beautiful and elegant, and the contemporary costumes, mostly from Hugo Boss, worked exceptionally well. Ferrando and Guglielmo make their first appearance as young Wall Street types in power suits. Later, when they pretend to be going off to war, they don camouflage fatigues and UN-style blue berets. But the costumes that worked best for them (and the whole production) were the ones they adopted for their fake identities: Ferrando as a grungy, long-haired biker, and Guglielmo as a dredlocked, heavy metal poser. The sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella sport a wardrobe of pastel pants, fashionably casual shirts and spike heels.

The singing for the most part was excellent, particularly that of Andrew Shore and Lillian Watson in the manipulative roles of Don Alfonso and Despina. They displayed a surety of technique and keen dramatic flair that made them totally believable. As the female principals, Susan Gritton and Krisztina Szabó made a good team and were the most satisfying in Mozart’s sublime duets. Mezzo Krisztina Szabó was appropriately tragic in “Smanie implacabili”, her agitated lament after the young men go off to the fictitious war, but the mercilessly showy music of Dorabella’s “Come scoglio” demanded more than Susan’s Gritton’s light, grainy soprano. The male principals satisfied both eye and ear. Gordon Gietz displayed a strong, clear tenor and an endearing youthful ardor in the musically demanding role of Ferrando. Nathan Gunn’s robust baritone and strapping physique served him well in the role of Guglielmo.

The playing of the Montreal-based chamber orchestra, Les Violons du Roy, was superb. Artistic director and founder Bernard Labadie took a fast, light approach to the music and conducted with a rare and insightful lyrical sensitivity.

  • This performance on August 14 was preceded by performances on August 10 and 12
  • Lincoln Center

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