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I note the comments of the other reviewers, which are not
complimentary. I have to add that my views are perhaps coloured by the
fact that I saw all three Operas which made up the tryptych way back in
1990, live over the one weekend.
It was a bit like being drunk on Opera, and no doubt affects my reading of this film.
This particular movie, which had been shown on C4 in the UK twice, and had been very popular then had been the subject of discussion between me and a couple of really "old" opera fans I'd met one evening at the ENO.
Now you'd think that most Opera fans might have taken Sellars ouvre and dismissed it, "he's always trying to shock" etc.
Not a bit of it, every one of these three old ladies were full of the Sellars Tryptych and especially so with the Cosi.
I've seen Cosi some ten times now, and almost everyone describes it as a comedy of manners, a school for lovers or some such drivel.
No, what it is, is a devastating look at the matter of trust in life and just how witless men are in their dealings with women.
Sellars has taken it into a NY Diner and jazzed it up a bit, but old Sellars knows a thing or two, he is faithful to the music, and he hires good actors.
This is a beautifully worked, stylishly imagined and well sung Opera. It made me laugh and cry at all the right places.
Mozart would have adored it, so do I.
When it comes to productions of Cosi Fan Tutte, this Peter Sellars
production isn't my favourite. The ones from 1989 and 1992 are
contenders for that title. That said, while my least favourite of the
Sellars Mozart productions, it was fun. Purists probably won't like it,
but while it is not perfect, I did. It can be seen as a controversial
production, and I can see why. Just for the record, I don't mind
changes to operas, so long as it is done in good taste.
Even with the updating to an admittedly tacky-looking diner, this Cosi does maintain the opera's heart and charm and the humour does come across as genuine. The music, being Mozart is undeniably wonderful, my personal favourites being Il Core Vi Dono, Soave Sia Il Vento and Una Donna I Quindici Anni, and the orchestra do a great job performing it. When it comes to the conducting, it wasn't the most subtle of conducting jobs, but it was efficient enough.
The production does have some good costuming, Despina's being my favourite, and the picture and sound quality are fine. Like Nozze Di Figaro, there is however some choppy camera work. The performances are fine generally, the best being Sanford Sylvan's fine Alfonso and Su Ellen Kuzma's charismatic Despina. Frank Kelley is reliable as Ferrando with a lovely Un Aura Amarosa. Susan Larson once again is lovely, as is Janice Felty. James Maddalena is good as Guglielmo, with only a forced and unmusical rendition of Donna Meie... disappointing.
All in all, fun if not a classic. 8/10 Bethany Cox
The setting at Despina's Diner puts the characters and action of Cosi in a wonderful context for modern audiences. Down a the marina it's much easier to grasp Don Alfonso's world-weary cynicism -- he's seen it all, and knows exactly what the all-too-human lovers will do. Memorable scenes are many, from the opening, where Ferrando and Guglielmo threaten Alfonso with cutlery from the diner counter, to the plaintive and sensual Soave trio, to Guglielmo's Donne miei, and many more. Director Sellars has created visual images within the drama that only serve to drive home the point that love can be profound, but people who love -- men and women -- are seldom faithful under its power. The modern setting is so much better than productions that approach the opera as a comic costume drama, when it's anything but. Sanford Sylvan is particularly effective as Alfonso.
Why does Peter Sellars insist on ripping the humanity out of Mozart?
This is Mozart's subtlest critique of man-woman relationships. Sellars has re-contextualised the action in an American diner. This "updating" really trivialises the thesis that men are as bad as women when it comes to deceit and fidelity between the sexes. It takes the bottom line and blanches the heart out of Mozart. This heart is what makes Mozart's greatest operas supremely moving when they speak of the darker sides of human nature.
These operas with their supposed "comic" element are all potential tragedies. The music - especially in COSI - tells us so. In this production, the music of course is the same, but every frame and each directorial nuance conspires to negate Mozart's genius.
The one or two "smart" updates (eg. the sexual relationship hinted at between Despina and Alfonso) do not make up for the mangled results of Sellars's interference with what was obviously perfect in the first place.
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