Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Mozart's Cosi fan tutte

A scene from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte

At a crowded Odeon Cineplex in Niagara Square, the lady sitting beside me remarks that today's opera, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte (an HD rendition of a live performance at New York's Metropolitan Opera), marks the comeback of renowned maestro James Levine after a two-year health-related absence. Levine steadfastly led the Met orchestra for 40 straight years as a 1996 version of Cosi will attest. Today, with wild hair looking like he stuck a finger in an electrical socket, Levine utilizes a specialized podium with a rotating platform and elevator mechanism, named the "maestro lift," to house his motorized wheelchair.

As the overture begins, we sense that he is indeed back, and he leads singers and musicians through two long acts of intricate solos and blending, quite often, Danielle de Niese as Despina in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte difficult sextets as epitomized by the climatic music that ends Act I.

With Renée Fleming acting as host at intermission, all of the leads pay homage to Levine, crediting him with encouraging their A-game for this performance. In fact, he seems to make the entire Mozart process seem effortless, but we know better.

Tenor Matthew Polenzani and baritone Rodion Pogossov play Ferrando and Guglielmo, young military officers and friends in Naples, bragging to Don Alfonso, bass-baritone Maurizio Muraro, about their girlfriends, but the cynical bachelor inspires a wager that he can prove their love interests unfaithful, and so the game begins, leading to comic interludes as the two suitors are supposedly forced to suddenly go away to war and in disguise as Arabic-looking Albanians, they try to seduce each other's fiancées with the help of soprano Danielle de Niese, the worldly-wise Despina, a chambermaid for the Isabel Leonard as Dorabella, Danielle de Niese as Despina, and Susanna Phillips as Fiordiligi - Marty Sohl sisters. She is riotous and realistic, much like the earthy Penny in dealing with nerds in Big Bang Theory.

Matthew Polenzani ( Ferrando), Rodion Pogossov ( Guglielmo), Maurizio Muraro ( Don Alfonso), Susanna Phillips ( Fiordiligi), Isabel Leonard ( Dorabella) and Danielle de Niese ( Despina) all project beautiful voices and sound acting, yet I found the play unduly long and repetitive, needing more vibrant staging as there is a minimum of action on the simplistic set. (Not as much fun either at intermission, watching hordes of crewmen assembling intricate props and set as in the Met's more elaborate productions.)

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    Danielle de Niese as Despina and Isabel Leonard as Dorabella in Mozarts Cosi fan tutte   Isabel Leonard as Dorabella and Danielle de Niese as Despina in Mozarts Cosi fan tutte   Isabel Leonard as Dorabella in Mozarts Cosi fan tutte   Matthew Polenzani as Ferrando in Mozarts Cosi fan tutte    Matthew Polenzani, Susanna Phillips, Isabel Leonard and Rodion Pogossov, Marty Sohl - Metropolitan Opera

    The last production in this series is Rossini's La Cenerentola on May 10, 2014, 12:55 pm ET.

    A peerless pair of Rossini virtuosos joins forces in La Cenerentola - a vocal tour de force for mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, singing her first Met performances of the Cinderella title role, and the high-flying tenor Juan Diego Flórez, as her Prince Charming. Alessandro Corbelli and Luca Pisaroni complete the cast, with Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leading the effervescent score.

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