Mozart in Medina

Seattle Opera sets Cosí fan tutte in the modern-day burbs.

Superbly sung and full of comic fizz, Seattle Opera's current production brings an adult sophistication to Mozart's Cosí fan tutte. Veteran director Jonathan Miller resets the story (two young men boasting of their fiancées' fidelity are persuaded to don disguises and woo each other's girl) in the present— specifically, we're told, in Medina. But it's mostly just for fun; though Miller has spoken eloquently on the way the opera's themes transcend the time of its composition, this isn't a three-hour treatise on Relevance.

The two fiancées wear just what you might see on any random twentysomething shopper in Bellevue Square; their boyfriends dress up, from the looks of it, as Alice Cooper roadies circa 1978; props include lattes and cell phones. Contributing to the comedy is Jonathan Dean's supertitling panache, telling us, for instance, that Despina, the ladies' maid, has been promoted to "personal assistant." The set, all creamy off-white, is chic and lovely, but abstract and functional: just draperies and a few bits of furniture.

None of this is allowed for a moment to get in the music's way. Alexandra Deshorties and Christine Rice offered some of the most glorious soprano/mezzo-soprano duet moments in recent SO history, and Matthew Polenzani's Act 1 adagio aria—dreamy, ardent, virtuosically nuanced yet artless in the best sense—was something to remember. It's good to be reminded what Italian tenors are supposed to sound like, and how they can serve a piece without playing the divo; it's not all about record-label hype and crossover kitsch. Though I oughtn't single out anyone in a thoroughly top-flight cast that showed such comic and musical chemistry as an ensemble; Christopher Maltman, Richard Stilwell, and Kimberly Barber completed the sextet.

Conductor Andreas Mitisek showed, with a fluent, buoyant reading of the overture, that keeping a piece moving along is not just a matter of sheer speed. Some prodigious playing from Seattle Symphony members resulted from Mozart's affection in Cosí for woodwind colors.

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