Seattle Opera’s revival of its very successful 2006 “Cosi fan tutte,” which updated the setting of the Mozart opera to the 21st century, demolishes a lot of stage clichés with a brash modernist zest.
Lightning can strike twice in the same place, as Seattle Opera proved this past weekend with a revival of its very successful 2006 “Cosi fan tutte.” The Mozart opera, in a production that was earlier updated to the 21st century by the inventive English director Jonathan Miller, demolishes a lot of stage clichés with a brash modernist zest.
At the heart of the production is a pair of casts that are vocally excellent, good-looking and closely attuned to each other’s every nuance. “Cosi” is an ensemble opera, not a star vehicle, with two young couples at the center and two conspirators who propel the action forward.
One reason Saturday’s opening-night cast was such a success was the “sister act” of two real-life sisters — Marina Costa-Jackson as Fiordiligi and Ginger Costa-Jackson as Dorabella. Stage business has seldom seemed so real: watching the lovely Costa-Jackson sisters pose, primp, tussle and tease was just fun. Both have rich, beautifully produced voices of considerable agility (Marina’s “Come scoglio” was a showstopping standout), and they are just right for these roles.
Seattle Opera presents Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”
Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Jan. 13 and 14. Runs through Jan. 27, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $25-$308, 206-389-7676 or www.seattleopera.org.
Their boyfriends, Tuomas Katajala (in the tenor role of Ferrando) and baritone Craig Verm (as Guglielmo), proved equally adroit, athletic actors with unique vocal strengths: Katajala’s lyricism and Verm’s warm baritone were a pleasure to hear. Harry Fehr, who staged the revival, had them dashing about the stage, doing push-ups, posturing and in more or less constant motion.
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A different quartet of principals took over for the Sunday (alternate) cast: just as high-energy and with their own spin on the roles. There’s a bit more steel and a lot of great technique in Marjukka Tepponen’s Fiordiligi (she has a glorious laugh), and much to admire in Hanna Hipp’s more yielding, lyrical Dorabella. Ben Bliss brought a bright, beautifully produced tone to Ferrando, and Michael Adams was a smoothly sonorous Guglielmo.
As Despina, Laura Tatulescu was both versatile and clever. Kevin Burdette gave a detailed and suave portrayal of the wily Don Alfonso, who sets the plot into motion by proposing that the boyfriends test their girls’ fidelity by wooing each other’s girl in disguise. It’s a cynical and rather queasy premise: two pairs of happy lovers broken apart as the young men try to win Alfonso’s wager — making themselves unhappy when the girls succumb to their “new” suitors. The opera’s title, translated as “All women are like that,” reflects a callous worldview that is not represented in the rapturous, ardent music.
This is a relatively long show (close to 3 ½ hours), but conductor Paul Daniel kept the musical pace humming along, though there were some unusual bloopers Saturday in the orchestra. Daniel also supported the singers admirably with his continuo playing (on a particularly fine fortepiano), with cellist Meeka Quan DiLorenzo.
The Seattle Opera Chorus, which has relatively little to do and is sensibly stashed offstage, sang well. The witty, topical supertitles by Jonathan Dean identify the principal singers as “ladies from Seattle” and “gentlemen from Portland.”
All of the cast members looked great in Cynthia Savage’s contemporary costumes, from the high-style glamour of the sisters’ outfits to the hilarious “biker dudes” get-up assumed by their boyfriends in disguise. Since Miller, the original production director, believes that we become different people when we wear disguises, the costumes really count in this show.