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Così Fan Tutte
NEW YORK CITY
The MET + Juilliard
MET + Juilliard's Così Fan Tutte, with Lewis, Savoy, O'Connell, Giunta, Hughes and Qave
© Nan Melville 2013
The MET + Juilliard production of Così Fan Tutte (seen Nov. 19) offered a refreshing performance of Mozart's opera, buoyed by the sparkling conducting of Alan Gilbert, Stephen Wadsworth's pellucid stage direction and the infectious high spirits of a talented young cast, most of them members of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Così was once a relative rarity, but it has been programmed with increasing frequency in recent seasons: the MET + Juilliard Così is at least the fifth staging that New York has seen since the beginning of 2010.
Under Gilbert's incisive leadership, the Juilliard Orchestra contributed a crisp performance that realized the mercurial, sexy beauty of Mozart's score. Wadsworth's production, handsomely designed by Charlie Corcoran (sets), Camille Assaf (costumes) and David Lander (lights), was traditional in manner and mode, setting the machinations of Don Alfonso in motion within a late-eighteenth-century milieu. The painstaking detail of Wadsworth's staging — every gesture delivered with purpose and clarity — yielded impressive results, as in the two principal arias for Fiordiligi, which were masterfully planned and paced, and the crackling end of Act II. Relationships between the various pairs of friends, lovers and siblings were convincing and invested with the proper amount of heat, save for the furtive erotic encounters between Despina and Don Alfonso, which rang false.
The two standouts in the principal cast were Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta, as Dorabella, and Californian bass-baritone Evan Hughes, as Don Alfonso. Giunta, a saucer-eyed, redheaded stunner, sang and cavorted with star-quality grace and point and offered delicious comic timing; if anyone is thinking of making Born Yesterday into an opera, this is your girl. Hughes demonstrated impressive suavity in ensemble and well-timed edge in his recitatives, creating a character believably older and wiser than those of his fellow Mozarteans.
Luthando Qave, as Guglielmo, and Alexander Lewis, as Ferrando, were a slightly ill-matched team: Qave, who has a potentially world-class lyric baritone of velvet finish, sang elegantly but acted tentatively. Lewis is a brilliant comic actor — his riotously funny Vasˇek highjacked the show in Wadsworth's 2011 Bartered Bride for the MET + Juilliard — but his somewhat throaty voice lacks the full, shining tone of a natural Mozart tenor. That said, it is unfair to judge Lewis's full potential in this rep on the basis of this performance. He was clearly in vocal distress during Act I's "Un' aura amorosa," and following an indisposition announcement after intermission he did not sing Act II, instead miming the complicated stage moves with brio as tenor Andrew Stenson sang Ferrando's music from the pit, brilliantly.
Mezzo Naomi O'Connell, a Juilliard Artist Diploma student who was the only non-Lindemann singer in the principal cast, was an energetic, saucy Despina, more comfortable in the maidservant's "real" music than in the Doctor and Notary interludes. Soprano Emalie Savoy, a generous, intelligent artist of genuine warmth, had the charm and amplitude required for Fiordiligi but lacked the virtuoso command her music demanded, especially on high.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
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