Cosi fan tutte by Opera Vlaanderen: Champagne
By Griet Leyers· 26 December 2014
Cosi fan tutte, or as the subtitle specifies the school for loving couples, premiered nearly 225 years ago. How ever, w e do
not seem to have learned a great deal since. Even today lovers are convinced they can remain loyal and w ill stick
together no matter w hat. The success of programs like ’Temptation Island’ show s us that the question, w hether w e can
resist serious temptation in matters of love, remains on our minds even today. Unfortunately, time and again it is
confirmed that human nature, in spite of all noble and honorable intentions, does not follow that logic.
Just as predictable as the plot of this opera, w as the premiere of Cosi fan tutte in Antw erp. A fourth revival of a
production that originally w ent in premiere 17 years ago. In itself, that doesn’t need be a problem. Just look at
productions as La Bohème by Franco Zeffirelli from 1982, w hich is again on the 2015 program of the Metropolitan
Opera. In spite of a lot of very nice elements and findings it seems that unfortunately, this ‘Cosi fan tutte’ has really lost
Timeless and still compelling are the sets of Johannes Leiacker. Not only aesthetically and functionally they are
particularly clever. The fact that the second act’s setting is a mirror image of the first act’s set, betrays real insight into
the score and the structure of the piece. The tw o acts are in fact a mirror image of each other in terms of structure. The
question that stage director Guy Joosten asks himself, namely w hether the second choice of the sisters Fiordiligi and
Dorabella might not be the better one, is interesting. Definitely, the very choreographed staging has a lot of fun moments
but unfortunately, also less successfull scenes. Examples of such moments are the clumsy performances of tw o male
extras at the beginning of the first act and the poor, not accumulated transition tow ards the first chorus. More annoying
even, is the chorus member shaking her hips on the beat of her MP3 player all the w ay through that beautiful first
chorus. Anno 2014 no one needs this kind of desperate attempt to make a production “modern”. Still, the real problem of
the production does not lie in these details, but in a general lack of speed and energy.
How ever, the cast of young and talented singers obviously disposes of a proper dose of energy. The Romanian
soprano Cristina Pasaroiu, as Fiordiligi, has a very beautiful and delicate voice. I do have serious questions concerning
the casting of this beautiful singer in the role of Fiordiligi. Mozart w as exceptionally gifted w hen it comes to
understanding the human voice. In the arias he w rote for his protagonists, he show s us w ith great precision w hat kind of
specific voice he has in mind for a particular role. The role of Fiordiligi, for example, he w rote for a soprano w ith a strong
midrange, ditto low notes, and the ability to sing coloratura. Pasaroiu w ould undoubtedly be a gorgeous Susanna (Nozze
di Figaro) or Pamina (The Magic Flute). As Fiordiligi, how ever, she does not only lack a quarter in her low er tessitura,
but also body in her tone. Beautifully casted on the contrary is the Russian mezzo Maria Kataeva as Dorabella. A very
w arm and elegant voice, a solid technique and all that combined w ith a fresh and slim appearance. Last but not least
among the female cast is Aylin Sezer. The young soprano is member of the ‘Young Opera ensemble Flanders’ and
makes a noted debut as Despina. At times she gets a little in trouble because of the very light casted Fiordiligi, but
meritoriously dow nsizes herself vocally. Still, physically, she remains very dominant in the w omen’s group. In previous
productions of Opera Vlaanderen, the Turkish-Dutch singer already proved to have a voice and descent technique. In
this Cosi she can now also confirm as an actress. Unfortunately the Despina she performs is not a very subtle one.
Through the stage direction and the vulgar costume and footw ear for Despina by Karin Seydtle, it is clear that this
perception of Despina is the vision of the production team. It is a pity that the portrayal of a young w oman w ith more
common sense than her tw o mistresses together, often relapses into a very stereotypical and w oman-unfriendly,
misogynistic figure. Perhaps ‘modern productions’ should break w ith those obsolete trends, and portray Despina as the
clever and hands-on-girl she really is. The performances of her ‘partner in crime’ Umberto Chiummo as Don Alfonso is
amusing. Unlike Despina, he is portrayed as a gentleman, in a stylish w hite suit. Although Chiummo is definitely a good
actor and a handsome appearance on stage, you can hardly call him a great singer. Throughout the w hole opera, he
needs to leave his vocal comfort zone only a few times, but at the premiere he manages to miss those few higher notes.
Still, in the ensembles he does sound good. That cannot be said of Sébastien Droy. The young Frenchman has a
beautiful and w arm voice. The ease w ith w hich he sings his very difficult arias, show s a very good technique. It is bizarre
that in the ensemble he sounds so w eak. Maybe it has to do w ith the fact that he is often positioned in the very back of
the stage during the ensembles. His colleague Riccardo Novaro is a very convincing Guglielmo indeed. In addition to a
beautiful vocal performance Novaro is clearly a talented actor/comedian and succeeds in bringing some panache into
In the recent production of Khovanshina, the fantastic chorus of Opera Vlaanderen show ed their full potential as
actors. Unfortunately, in this Cosi fan tutte, there are no real challenges for the depleted chorus as far as acting is
concerned. Vocally, the chorus led by Jan Schweiger, w as again very convincing. Praise for the great performance and
comic talent of bass /chorus member Miguel Torres in his role as bar manager.
Conducted by Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli the orchestra of Opera Flanders doesn’t alw ays sound as convincing,
bubbly and together as usual. Michelangeli’s very unclear direction technique must be indeed very difficult to follow .
Besides some very elegant phrasing, he at times goes for rather bizarre tempi: often almost unrealistically fast and
sometimes really slow . Theoretically, these ideas are very nice, but they are not particularly voice and singer -friendly.
Beautiful performances by the w oodw inds in the orchestra and by Jeanne-Minette Cillieres on the Harpsichord.
The production ‘ Cosi fan tutte’ at Opera Vlaanderen in Antwerp on the 26th
of December and in Ghent on