The Atlanta Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte was heard for the first time this season last Saturday at the Cobb Energy Center. With a cast composed of primarily young artists, most making their Atlanta Opera debuts, the performance was well attended and enthusiastically received by the audience.
The score, performed in its traditional version, was cut in various sections of recitative, and ensembles such as the finale sections of both acts were significantly abbreviated. Conductor Kazem Adbullah propelled the proceedings by way of a rushed, snappy tempo, which remained irresponsive when called upon to create a theatrical or emotional effect. Furthermore, both in the orchestral texture and vocal line, a lack of musical rubato rooted many pages of the score earthbound. At worst, the music was found wanting in both poetry and elasticity. At best, it tried desperately to harmonize with the interpretation dictated by director Jose Maria Condemi. Moving the action from 18th century to 1940’s Naples allowed for the women to be beautifully costumed in flattering 40s fashions; and for the most part, Mr. Condemi achieved a general cohesion in setting up the situations to render to plot effective. That said, some stage cues were inexplicably ignored (such as the lack of portraits the women must describe to each other) or introduced when they made no sense (Despina’s panicked reaction to the military chorus in act two). What ultimately disturbed was the constant movement from ancillary characters while principals were assigned the musical spotlight. I found this consistently distracting, and at times it was necessary to close the eyes and allow the music to perform its task unobstructed. Alas, I will forgive everything if there is great singing onstage.