Cosi Fan Tutte
William Christie makes his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera with a beautifully sung production of Mozart's comic opera.
The overture, which has all the pull of a pop-song hook, was instantly enthralling. Moreover, throughout the production, Mozart's music sounded as rapturous as could be hoped, even if there were times when the singers seemed to be in a race to catch up to the conductor -- who made his Met debut on Tuesday -- as if they were runners in the New York Marathon attempting to catch up to the fellow in the lead.
The opera -- seen here in the Met's 1996 production -- concerns military men Ferrando (Pavol Breslik) and Guglielmo (Nathan Gunn), who are nudged by older and more cynical friend Don Alfonso (baritone William Shimell, replacing Wolfgang Holzmair) into a bet that Fiordiligi (Miah Persson) and sister Dorabella (Isabel Leonard) would turn faithless, if not in a heartbeat than within a day. They do -- but only after their fiancés sneak back in disguise to woo them and after much carrying-on and the assistance of the ladies' plucky servant Despina (Danielle de Niese).
The singers -- every one of them slim, good-looking, and full of vim and vigor -- make the most of their many opportunities here, under the direction of Lesley Koenig, Leonard and Persson's "Ah, guarda sorella" has the ravishing quality Mozartians relish; Breslik shines when things slow down on "Un'aura amorosa; De Niese (who works often with Christie) thrills on the second-act opener "Una donna a quindici anni"'; Gunn stands out on "Donne mie, la fate a tanti"; and Persson, Leonard, and Shimell deliver "Soave sia il vento" as flowingly as the wind about which they're singing.
It's true that the opera is not much more than a comic sketch in substance but still lasts three hours; features a plot that can anger some patrons; and can play better in a more intimate venue than the Met's capacious space (even with Michael Yeargan's pretty designs). But, as its proponents will tell you, Mozart's flowing music can't be bested.