CosÏ fan tutte, Los Angeles

Its libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, who despite the fact that he
was both a priest and a professor at Columbia College (not at the same time)
had attained notable fame in his youth for licentiousness. The opera’s
title means “all women are like that” and its subtitle “La
scuola di amante” means “school for lovers.” Ostensibly an
education in love, in Da Ponte’s and Mozart’s hands the
opera’s lesson is that all women are fickle.

coz6065.gifRoxana Constantinescu as Despina

Guglielmo and Ferrando, two handsome young men engaged to sisters Fiordiligi
and Doraballa, swear to Don Alonso, their old philosopher friend that the girls
will be faithful to them forever. The cynical Alonso’s assertion that the
girls will take new lovers in less than 24 hours if the men follow his
instructions, results in a bet. Don Alonso elicits the help of the young
women’s maid servant, Despina. The women are told that their heroes have
been called to war, and shortly thereafter the two men disguised as
“Albanians” appear to declare their passionate, (and sometimes
comical) love — but to each other’s girl. Torn by conscience and
tempted by the joys of love, the girls suffer a few pangs, but soon give in,
each to her sister’s fiancÈ, whereupon to their mortification, the
treacherous scheme is revealed. Then somehow — maybe Mozart didn’t
like unhappy endings — there’s a cheerful sextet in which all the
characters agree, “let’s get over this and look at the sunny side
of things.” But who did the girls go home with? Their first lovers or
their second? Mozart and Da Ponte don’t tell us! And if women study this
“school’s” lesson a little deeper, they may wonder,
“Are all fiancÈs like that?”

This is an attractive well-matched cast. Happily, the two male leads
resemble each other enough to muddle their identities while in disguise, so
there’s no little worm to gnaw at your aching-to-believe brain saying,
“How could the girls not recognize them?” The production that Nichols Hytner, originally created for Glyndebourne with its tawny sets
and blazing blue Neapolitan skies are crisp and elegantly restrained.

coz4180.gifSaimir Pirgu as Ferrando, Ruxandra Donose as Dorabella, Aleksandra Kurzak as Fiordiligi and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Guglielmo

But it’s the music that triumphs. Maestro Conlon personally chose the
cast of European singers for their facility with Italian recitative, as well I
am sure, for the quality of their voices. Bass Lorenzo Ragazzo, delivered a
cheerful, perhaps not cynical enough Don Alfonso. Bass-baritone, Ildebrando
D’Arcangelo as Guglielmo, pranced agilely when required — what a
“Mefistofole” he would make! Saimir Pirgu’s Ferrando’s
“Un’aura amorosa”and Aleksandra Kurzak’s “Come
scoglio” hit their difficult marks. While the tessitura of
Fiordiligi’s role unquestionably requires a soprano, the roles of
Dorabella and Despina, here mezzos Ruxandra Donose and Roxana Constantinescu,
respectively, are not as clearly defined in terms of range and can be sung by
sopranos. Most frequently, it is Despina (think saucy Susanna in the
Marriage of Figaro) who is cast as a soprano. Constaninescu, however,
is perhaps too young to make a properly worldly-wise and arch Despina. The
similarity of her sound to Donose’s Dorabella’s reduced the impact
of her role and had me wishing for a bright soprano sound.

The essence of this CosÏ is the sense of ensemble: the balance
between orchestra and voice, and the clearly visible rapport between the
singers and Maestro Conlon. When Conlon stretched past his score with this arms
high over his head, and looked directly at his singers, it seemed as if the
baton in his hand was a magic wand eliciting spontaneous song.

And did they all have fun with their curtain calls!

Estelle Gilson

image_description=Lorenzo Regazzo as Don Alfonso [Photo by Robert Millard courtesy of LA Opera]
product_title=W. A. Mozart: CosÏ fan tutte
product_by=Ferrando: Saimir Pirgu; Guglielmo: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; Don Alfonso: Lorenzo Ragazzo; Fiordiligi:Aleksandra Kurzak; Dorabella: Ruxandra Donose; Despina: Roxana Constantinescu. Conductor: James Conlon. Original Production: Nicholas Hytner. Director: Ashley Dean.
product_id=Above: Lorenzo Regazzo as Don Alfonso

All photos by Robert Millard courtesy of LA Opera