[Met Performance] CID:158490
Cosė Fan Tutte {14} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/2/1952.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 2, 1952
In English


COSĖ FAN TUTTE {14}

Fiordiligi..............Eleanor Steber
Ferrando................Richard Tucker
Dorabella...............Blanche Thebom
Guglielmo...............Frank Guarrera
Despina.................Patrice Munsel
Don Alfonso.............John Brownlee
Servant.................Alfred Lunt

Conductor...............Fritz Stiedry

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Saturday Review

'COSI' VIA ALFRED LUNT

It's a happier New Year for the reappearance in the Metropolitan repertory of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" - if reappearance is the right word for a work which has had barely a dozen performances in the history of the house, and none in nearly a quarter century. It's an even happier 1952 for the kind and quality of this "Cosi" which bears the hallmark of Mozart in every silvery curve, polished to a glow by Alfred Lunt's hand as a master restorer. If Rudolf Bing can successfully install "Cosi fan tutte" in the Metropolitan repertory as he has "Fledermaus" and "Don Carlo," he will be doing almost as much for culture as the sponsorship of a new work by the latest Bessarabian genius.

Little has been left to luck in this production and even less to chance. With Lunt as an indefatigable co-craftsman with Rolf Gerard and Fritz Stiedry to shape and supervise, mold and elaborate an ensemble from the rich talents of John Brownlee, Patrice Munsel, Eleanor Steber, Blanche Thebom, Richard Tucker, and Frank Guarrera, Mozart's superb score has almost every chance to work its wiles. We say "almost," for it takes a deal of singing to deliver Fiordiligi's "Come scoglio" with the proper note of determination or to phrase Ferrando's "Un' aura amorosa" with artless perfection or to give Despina's "Una donna" the precise shade of roguishness it contains. Steber, Tucker, and Munsel are all on the way to distinction in their parts; some portion of each was superb, but they will certainly be the better for another dozen performances. Thebom as Dorabella and Guarrera as Guglielmo have both the voices and the spirits for these roles, while blending with the others in a unity of timbres rarely heard at the Metropolitan - or elsewhere. Brownlee, of course, has been singing Alfonso with distinction for years, and still can.

Any consideration of "Cosi" must begin with the pit, for that is where the first joke is cracked, all the others echoed. Elevating the orchestral floor has given the sound a chance to soar, which it does with high credit to the anonymous personnel of strings, winds, and brass. Stiedry is perhaps more closely attuned to the sentiment in the music than to its satire, but he balanced voices and instruments well.

From here on in it is Lunt and Gerard. Together they earn every credit for intelligence in preparation by planning an action and decor which respect the style and intimacy of the music, the while recognizing the need to magnify all details to suit the dimensions of this stage and auditorium. Save for some fussy detail (mostly on the tempting figure of Munsel) Lunt has kept the mood light, the detail sharp, the postures graceful, with some ingenious visual counterpoints to Mozart's seraphic score. He has, in fact, given his people manners as well as a manner - a neat triumph in matters operatic. Around the action Gerard has provided air space and a lovely sense of Mediterranean warmth, together with costumes enchanting in detail and sum.

Despite the Italian designations noted above (for readier recognition), this is a "Cosi" not only in English, but in musically literate English and poetically appropriate English, thanks to the increasing skill of the Martins, Ruth and Thomas P., as translators. There are gratefully few Gilbertisms, and a surprising number of artful approximations to the effects for which Da Ponte and Mozart were striving in certain word-schemes and rhythms. One became quickly aware, too, that the singers - chosen, of course, because their mother tongue is English - were enunciating clearly, cleanly, and with uniformity rare in such a venture. Let it not be forgotten that Lunt won the 1947 award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for good diction, and couldn't stand for dirty work at this, of all crossroads. For making the Mozartian trinity of "Figaro," "Don Giovanni," and the "Flute" a quartet Bing deserves the thanks of all music lovers.



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