Seattle Opera stages Mozart’s ‘Cosi fan tutte’

  • By Mike Murray / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, February 23, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The music world is celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, and Seattle Opera joins in with a production of “Cosi fan tutte,” Mozart’s comic opera treasured for its glistening score.

Mozart wrote music primarily for six voices in combinations – duets, trios, quartets and more. This is Mozart in excelsis.

Seattle Opera’s production, which opens Saturday for the first of eight performances, is presented in modern dress, but this time shift is possible because the opera’s themes are not tied to a specific period.

While “Cosi fan tutte” is loved for its music, the same cannot be said for its slight plot; the story of romantic treachery paints its two lead women as rather dimwitted.

“Cosi fan tutte” (one translation is “All Women are Like That”), centers on two fickle sisters – Fiordiligi and Dorabella – who are engaged to young officers, Guglielmo and Ferrando.

The officers, on a bet with their cynical friend Don Alfonso, concoct a fidelity test, disguising themselves as strangers and attempting to court each other’s girlfriends.

Despina, the sisters’ chambermaid, is in on the plot.

This exercise in romantic deceit, in which the young woman yield to the ruse but are then reunited with their real boyfriends at the end, plays out over two acts.

Just who ends up marrying whom in the end is left unanswered.

Seattle Opera’s production is directed Jonathan Miller, whose contemporary “Cosi” has played to sold-out houses in London and New York.

Miller is a legend in the world of theater, opera and television, beginning his career in the 1960s when he formed Beyond the Fringe with comedians Dudley Moore and Peter Cook.

Since then, he has been honored multiple times for his work in the direction of Shakespeare’s plays, for operas and for numerous TV series including a recent BBC series on opera.

“Cosi” is under the baton of Andreas Mitisek, the general and artistic director of Long Beach Opera, who has conducted two previous Seattle Opera productions.

Seattle Opera has double cast all six parts in “Cosi,” including many Seattle Opera favorites plus company debuts.

Among the later are Canadian soprano Alexandra Deshorties as Fiordiligi, a role she sang at the Metropolitan Opera this season. Singing the role in the second cast is American soprano Jessica Jones, also making her company debut.

Seattle Opera production Saturday through March 11 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle Center. Sung in Italian with English captions. Tickets, $43 to $141 ($20 student rush at the box office), 206-389-7676, 800-426-1619,

English mezzo-soprano Christine Rice makes her Seattle Opera debut as Dorabella, as does American mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak in the second cast.

American tenor Matthew Polenzani, another regular at the Met, sings the role of Ferrando, with American tenor Don Frazure taking the role in the second cast in his company debut.

English baritone Christopher Maltman and American baritone David Adam Moore, both last seen here in 2001 in “Billy Budd,” alternate in the role of Gugliemo.

Canadian mezzo soprano Kimberly Barber and Irish soprano Frances Lucey alternate in the role of Despina. American baritone Richard Stilwell shares the role of Don Alfonso with American bass Valerian Ruminski, making his Seattle Opera debut.

Larry Merkle photo

Canadian soprano Alexandra Deshorties as Fiordiligi in “Cosi fan tutte.”

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