WNO’s Comme Ci Comme Ca Cosi
by Christie Connolley
Anne Midgette of the Washington Post, as you can imagine, has no shortage of opinions on The Washington National Opera’s current production of Cosi fan Tutte. Check out just a few of them in the Operagasm Review Rundown!
Time Warp: “It’s a challenge to believe in these characters, and even more of a challenge to try, as Miller did, to bring the action into the present day. At least, Miller said he was updating the action to the present. From the costumes (Timm Burrow revised them for this revival) and the characters’ behavior, it looked more as if he had updated it to 1980s-era Eastern Europe: some place trying a little too hard to bring across what it mistakenly believed to be the epitome of American cool, along the lines of Saturday Night Live’s “two wild and crazy guys.” The two sisters, dressed in garish ’80s colors, shimmied while they sang, like schoolteachers embarrassing their students by joining in at a school dance; the disguised men embodied creaky, decades-old stereotypes of either biker cool or rock chic. ”
Telling it like it is: “Miller has been saying for years that his goal is to get rid of operatic cliches, so it’s frustrating to see him offer a production so rife with them, from the singers’ gestures to the outdated concepts. He violated a cardinal rule of comedy by creating characters who were parodistic; it was hard to find anything sympathetic about any of them. Furthermore, for all his lip service to naturalism, he did little to bring out the beauty of this quirky but often ravishing work. He piled on lots of stage business when the men pretended to go off to war, having them interviewed by a TV reporter. But in the ensuing trio between the two women and Don Alfonso, one of the most beautiful things in the operatic canon, he seemed at a loss to do anything at all.”
So maybe she actually didn’t like this production: “And the singers were seldom able to pick up the slack. Elizabeth Futral, who sang the sister Fiordiligi, is a serious and committed singer, but prone to being distracted by cute stage business; and kneeing the would-be suitor Guglielmo (Teddy Tahu Rhodes) in the groin, or the abovementioned shimmying, got in the way of her musical focus, sometimes leading her off pitch or simply muddying her vocal lines. Rhodes himself is an imposing presence, but his large voice was woofy; and as Ferrando, the other suitor, Joel Prieto, though he had a nice taut tenor, delivered a wooden rendition of the usually gorgeous aria “Un’aura amorosa,” as if he had no idea what to do with it beyond simply producing the notes. Christine Brandes was adequate as a rather butch Despina, but Renata Pokupic’s mezzo grew colorless and strained when delivering some of the arias of the other sister, Dorabella.”