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Cosi Fan Tutte

William Christie makes his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera with a beautifully sung production of Mozart's comic opera.

Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard in Cosi Fan Tutte
(© Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)
A man hardly averse to swinging his arms around in imitation of an excited windmill, famed Les Arts Florissants conductor William Christie took the tempos of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, which has returned to the Metropolitan Opera this season, faster than many operagoers might be used to. Fortunately, the results were primarily felicitous.

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.


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