Review: Washington National Opera’s ‘Così fan tutte’
As a return to normal, Mozart’s sparkling comedy from 1790 is certainly a choice. On the one hand, it’s one of opera’s most popular confections, reliably seat-filling madness and saucy laughter at the expense of our worst instincts as people trying desperately over the centuries to get along.
On the other, it’s hard to imagine a “normal” we try harder do not to go back to. (It was hard to say.) What I mean is that when setting up a show such as “Così”, one might be tempted to make heavy moves on the material, to demonstrate raw agency on its tired tropes, maybe even modernizing it. with a new sex policy – turn it into “Ferrando & Dorabella & Guglielmo & Fiordiligi.”
Suffice it to say, an opera most often translated as “Women are like that” hits differently in 2022. All”!)
I am pleased to announce that the Washington National Opera’s production of “Così fan tutte” – a postponement of a postponement from the 2020-2021 season, now on stage at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater until March 26 – is abstaining to tear the opera from its box. Rather, he gently takes it out of its wrapper, sets it in scene, displays its beauties like a precious antique, and polishes its flaws to a point where you can see your reflection in them.
Directed by Alison Moritz, this “Così” throws an extra frame around it, in which the characters, left to themselves to suffer from their own madness and the intelligence of the other, go through the action with the comic fate of a silent film. Erhard Rom’s sets, too, strike a fine balance between cartoonish opulence and comic minimalism – he projects elegant filigree to fill the walls of living rooms, streaks of marble to evoke a garden. Occasionally, a Monty Python-esque hand descends from above holding flowers or a chicken leg. The whole thing is deliciously cheeky.
Directed by the conductor Erina Yashimathe WNO Orchestra played with increased vigour, riding Mozart’s melodic updrafts (those that counteract the story’s downward spiral) and contributing to some of the evening’s best comedic moments.
Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb is now one of my favorite Dorabellas, her eyes as expressive as her voice and her timing just as perfect, well suited to her passions and mercurial adjustments. Soprano Laura Wilde sang a formidable Fiordiligi, her voice able to harden into stone (“Come scoglio”) and soften with nostalgia (“Per pietà, ben mio perdona”).
Tenor Kang Wang and baritone Andrey Zhilikhovsky brought pathos, power and pure ham to their respective Ferrando and Guglielmo – Zhilikhovsky the bigger blunderer of the two, Wang the bigger voice. (His “Tradito, schernito” was a highlight.) And Ana María Martínez (as the scheming Despina) and Ferruccio Furlanetto (as the trickster Don Alfonso) were a (literally) irresistible duo of master manipulators.
As socially dissonant as Mozart’s rom-com (which is actually more of a rom-com) might be, assuming that men are garbage does nothing to spoil its merits. “Così” can be postponed, but it will never be cancelled.
“Così fan tutte” runs until March 26 at the Kennedy Center. To visit kennedy-center.org for tickets and information.