Los Angeles Opera Preview: COSÌ FAN TUTTE (Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on May 19, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


For those who think that the “semi-staging” for Così fan tutte, which opens on Friday at Disney Hall, is simply a world-class orchestra accompanying opera singers holding a libretto in their hands, you are in for a surprise. Fully staged, fully memorized, and beautifully designed, the operas in LA Phil’s Mozart/DaPonte Trilogy so far—Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro—have startled in their imagination and intimacy. And for those who think the smaller stage at Disney Hall will force vocalists to “Park and Bark” (moving without singing), expect another surprise: With no offense meant to the opera world, I saw singers move more in the first two Mozart/DaPonte operas at Disney Hall than I have on operatic stages in the past year.

Mozart's Marriage of Figaro set design, Act 2 by Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Photo by Ateliers Jean NouvelWhen first announced, this multi-season presentation of librettist Lorenzo da Ponte and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s three operas, LA Phil promised it to be a “massive undertaking” with all-star creative teams and world-class singers.

That was an understatement.

How about “ambitious artistry”? Take for example the iconic architects and leading fashion designers involved so far. For Don Giovanni, the captivating staging of the inventive and forward-thinking avant-garde director Christopher Alden—on sets by Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry—was made all the more stunning and glitzy by the vogue and fascinatingly futuristic fashions known as Rodarte by Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Also directed by Alden, The Marriage of Figaro had a Paris-based creative team, with installations by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel (see photo) and seductive costumes by couturier Azzedine Alaïa.

Take a peek at this clip about last years’ The Marriage of Figaro:

Under the baton of LA Phil’s Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, these have become some of the most talked-about opera productions of the millennium, so tickets to the trilogy’s grand finale, Così fan tutte—once again helmed by Dudamel and Alden—should be swept up posthaste. With only four performances, this much-anticipated event will feature installations designed by Dame Zaha Hadid, the renowned Iraqi-born British architect known for her radical deconstructivist designs (in 2004 she became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize). The costumes are created by British designer Hussein Chalayan, a visionary who has often been dubbed fashion’s resident mad scientist, as his avant-garde creations continually push the boundaries of what the human body can wear (coffee table as evening wear, anyone?).

10247479_767146046642961_5908396140425188375_nCosì fan tutte, ossia La Scuola degli amanti—to give the opera its full title—roughly translates as “All Women Are Like That, or The School for Lovers.” Finished and first performed in 1790, it is one of Mozart’s best-loved comic operas. The main four protagonists are two soldiers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, and the sisters, Dorabella and Fiordiligi, to whom they are betrothed. Check out this truly international foursome: The luxurious-throated lyric tenor Alek Shrader plays Ferrando; French-Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly is Guglielmo; Romanian mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu is Dorabella; and Swedish soprano Miah Persson plays Fiordiligi.

mozart_bannerThe soldiers’ friend Don Alfonso, who calls into question the fidelity of their fiancées, sets events in motion by making a bet. Ferrando and Guglielmo must each pretend to go off to war, while really disguising himself as an enemy soldier and seducing not his own fiancée, but that of his comrade-in-arms. Alfonso is aided in his scheme by the sisters’ maidservant, Despina, who urges each girl to accept the advances of her new suitor. Local theatergoers will definitely remember American baritone Rod Gilfry, who plays Alfonso, as Emile de Becque in the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific at the Ahmanson, while Welsh soprano Rosemary Joshua, who portrays Despina, was performing Juliette in San Diego Opera’s Roméo et Juliette at the same time.

Basically poking fun at the fickleness of women, Così fan tutte is by no means a new story, having been told in past centuries by Bocaccio, Shakespeare and others, but in Mozart’s hands it becomes far more memorable. This final production of the Mozart / DaPonte Trilogy will no doubt be even more memorable, and we can only hope that LA Phil will continue to bring these one-of-a-kind operas to Los Angeles audiences.

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel

Così fan tutte
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Christopher Alden, director
Walt Disney Concert Hall
135 North Grand Avenue
Friday, May 23, 2014 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm
Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit www.laphil.com

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