Opera, July 10
Mozartís 1790 opera CosŪ Fan Tutte is a late bloomer;
it was panned when it was first performed and wasnít even
performed in the United States until the 1920s. The operaís
story of deceit and infidelity and reconciliation is improbable,
although it does have its goofy charm. The work rides on the
genius of Mozart, plain and simple. And that is more than
enough to make it go.
For the majority of the first act, the story is told in ensemble
singing, from duets to full company septets, with an offstage
chorus occasionally chiming in. Close harmonies and contrapuntal
melodies (sometimes as many as three and four) filled the
hall so completely that it didnít matter that there was little
else going on. Mozartís score is miraculous, and the castís
handling of it was precise and impassioned.
But the play was underacted. The libretto begs for broad comedic
gestures, for really blowing up the joint, and more often
than not the laughs came from the audience reading the translation
projected above the stage, not directly from the actors or
the action. Only Camille Zamora, as the conniving maid Despina,
was allowed to really stretch and fill her role, and her constant
big-eyed mugging was needed and welcome, especially in the
second act, which featured lengthy solo pieces lacking in
the spark or spite of the group work. The manipulated sisters,
played by Anne-Sophie Duprels and Sandra Paques Eddy, were
given no depth at all, and their lovers got only a little
more: Palle Knudson, who has a great physical presence on
stage, occasionally had a pratfall, but the superb tenor John
Tessier spent most of the play looking befuddled. Sanford
Sylvanís role as the instigator Alfonso was largely limited
to looking conspiratorially at the audience.
The set was big, with impressive moving walls and automatically
opening doors, but spare. For all of the beautiful music and
glorious singing, CosŪ felt like half a loaf.
Driving home, conversation about a just-seen opera usually
carries us all the way to Guilderland. We were barely onto
to Route 20 when my partner said ďI really donít have much
to say about that one.Ē Me, too.