Hard lessons in love

An Italian-Israeli co-production of Cosi fan tutte initiated by the Israel Opera opens Friday afternoon.

By MAXIM REIDER
May 17, 2007 16:58
2 minute read.
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Today through June 2, the Israeli Opera in cooperation with Italy's Arturo Toscanini Foundation will be premiering a new production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Having attended one of the latter stage rehearsals, I'm happy to report that the production looks good, with strong musical forces and a beautifull stage. The famous opera's story seems simple enough. An old celibate named Alfonso argues with his two young comrades, Ferrando and Guglielmo, that all women are fickle. The young men, happily in love with sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, disagree. The old cynic wagers that by the end of the day he will have proved his point. He proposes that Ferrando and Guglielmo, each in disguise, woo the other's sweetheart. They approach the women as exotic Albanians and with the help of Despina - the girls' servant, who eagerly participates in the hoax - they not only win their hearts, but even sign wedding contracts. A moment later Ferrando and Guglielmo reveal their real selves, but the dark undertones of this romantic comedy do not preclude a 'happy' ending, as the young foursome learn that Cosi fan' tutte, or "so do they all." The opera's subtitle is School for Lovers, and that's how stage director Marco Gandini sees the opera: "For me, this is not an opera buffa, with all its charactersistic exaggerations. Instead, I see it as a 18th-century opera, a study of character," he says. Granted, I can add elements of commedia italiana, which is all about irony, and the libretto offers quite a few opportunities for that - just think of all the disguises used. But it is still all natural," stresses a tired Gandini as he smokes in his backstage room after the rehearsal. "This opera is an educational journey." The name Gandini is familiar to Israeli opera goers over the past 10 years. He has worked in Israel as assistant to legendary director Franco Zeffirelli, and later as an opera director in his own right. Dani Ettinger, the rising young Israeli conductor, assistant and astudent to Daniel Barenboim in Berlin, will conduct most of the evenings, while young Israeli musician Omer Welber will take his place in the opera pit for two performances. Stage designer Italo Grassi has adopted a minimalist approach, leaving the spacious stage nearly empty. Unlike the stage, the gorgeous costumes by Sylvia Aymonino, in intense colors, do give away signs of the opera's 18th-century date. Opera is primarily about singing, and the production boasts a cast of internationally acclaimed singers and talented Israelis on various steps of their career. American soprano Adina Aaron, who first won international acclaim in Aida, staged by Zeffirelli, will appear in the role of Fiordiligi, while Italian mezzo soprano Anna Rita Gemmabella, who specializes in Mozart roles, will sing her sister Dorabella. Surtitles are in English and Hebrew.

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