Cosi fan tutte on the radio
Radio 3 was at it again this week, now with The Met’s Cosi. I half-assedly tried to get a cinema ticket a few months ago but it was already sold out so here I am, once again thanks to eyesometric (resident Radio 3 vigilante 😉 ). I say half-assedly because the idea of opera at the cinema doesn’t sit well with me. It’s the ear-splitting sound level I can’t get down with. I heard they keep it loud for the opera too so… on the other hand, I also heard good things about the singing in this Cosi production so I was somewhat willing to give in. On a scale of Dorabella to Fiordiligi, slightly less than Fiordiligi cca Some scoglio kind of willingness to give in.
- Fiordiligi: Susanna Phillips
- Dorabella: Isabel Leonard
- Guglielmo: Rodion Pogossov
- Ferrando: Matthew Polenzani
- Despina: Danielle DeNiese
- Don Alfonso: Maurizio Muraro
Conductor: James Levine | Chorus & Orchestra of the Met Opera, NYC
Anyway, enough whinging… about other than this production, that is. Vocally, Fiordiligi and Dorabella mix very well. On the whole I liked the duets and ensembles best. The singers were vocally well-drilled, although nobody really made a profound impression. I liked Polenzani better as Tito, but maybe I just like that role better? No, I think he just sounded more into it then. Here he seemed generic as interpretation went.
Sad to say Isabel Leonard’s voice bores me. Seems rather colourless and monotone although warm and pleasant enough. Dorabella is a truly fun (in a flirty, coquettish way) character and I didn’t get that at all here. Case in point, E amore un ladroncello, one of my favourite arias. It’s quintessentially playful and flirtatious and she made me think of… Annio singing Torna di Tito a lato. Dorabella =/= a very upright and earnest Annio. She sounded like a lower-voiced Fiordiligi and we really don’t need two almost virtuous birds in a comedy of manners.
DeNiese has always been easier on my eyes than on the ears. Here she wasn’t particularly offensive, just rather non-distinct, even her silly bit as Doc-spina was toned down. To be fair, that was probably not entirely her fault. She hammed it with the best of them in Glyndebourne’s Giulio Cesare and L’incoronazione di Poppea so I was expecting more gusto knowing she got plenty.
The Act I finale stood out, the coordination was very good and a modicum of edge came through. Generally speaking, it was all very nicely polished but it felt demure and underpowered – the singers were way too coddled by the orchestra. I know this isn’t Wagner but the orchestra sounded as if in another room! The vocal acting was definitely not funny enough and that’s all we get on the radio. I think it was done too tastefully, by which I mean too politely. Mozart sounds pretty when done this way but also a bit lame, kinda like a cup and saucer set.
Cosi, for me, is an opera where the girls are allowed to behave (and sound) unlady-like and the gents boorish – both to comedic effect. The very fact that they have all taken on less than honest positions lets them do so. But this sounded rather cutsey, lacking both a sense of silliness and an edge. These are supposed to be young, giggly, inexperienced people! They jump into something without thinking too much. They are gullible and ready to give in to temptation/experimentation. Yet this rendition was almost sleepy and my attention wandered off plenty.
I think Cosi has an edge, they are all doing something dangerous if you think about it. The men could be found out, the girls are transgressing after having convinced themselves how devoted they are to their men. There should be a sense of adventure in the sound by which I don’t necessary mean it should be dark. It’s not that dark, just a prank with some unexpectedly intense emotional consequences. What I heard here was prettiness mixed with mild sourness. Young people aren’t sour. Based on this, Maestro will get a nice lump of coal from Santa dehggi.