PostHeaderIcon Bees Do It, Fleas Do It, Let’s Fall in Love

Lyric Opera has come to the rescue just in time! In these early days of 2018, when the world has gone mad with multiple school shootings, Syria and Russian spy meddling, Lyric has prescribed a welcome elixir, an enchanting potion of Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte. “Cosi Fan Tutte”, a delicious bon-bon that  kept audiences enthralled since 1790 yet never grows old because its theme is the eternal war waged in the name of love.

The title, in Italian, literally means “Thus do they (women implied) all” but is usually translated in English as “Women are like that”. Although the current bias holds men as being the worst transgressors, women, since Cleopatra and Elizabeth I, have proven equally adept at using their power and wiles to conquer men. In “Cosi”, men are the ultimate dupes in this tale of “fiance swapping” though, as the opera starts, they are the superior schemers. “Cosi” may play as a comedy but it teaches true lessons about certainty and doubt, real and false identities, a topic that is super-timely in these times.

Opening set

Opening set

As the curtain rises, we see a fashionable hotel (rather than Act One’s traditional coffeehouse setting) where a wise and worldly croupier, Don Alfonso is enlightening two soldiers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, in the ways of love. He bets that he can prove that all women are fickle and that their lovers, Fiordiligi and Dorabella are not icons of purity but susceptible to temptation.

The men protest vigorously but take the bet. They exit offstage and Don Alfonso tells the ladies that they have sailed off to battle while they actually have donned disguises as Albanian friends. The plot is now afoot. Don Alfonso and his accomplice, Despina, the sisters’ maid, play their comic roles to the hilt. The rest of the opera keeps us wondering: Will the sisters relent and give in to the Albanian suitors?. I’ll only divulge that one sister wavers while the other stays true. And Despina proves to be an equal master of disguise, appearing near the end as a notary. You have to see and hear the whole story and be ready to laugh.

Marianne Crebessa & Ana Maria Martinez

Marianne Crebessa & Ana Maria Martinez

This is an opera in which the women rule, musically and romantically. So, it is fitting that Lyric assembled two great ladies to fill the roles, soprano Ana Maria Martinez and mezzo-soprano, Marianne Crebassa. They did Mozart proud, delivering sumptuous arias and blending several duets. Of the men, I thought baritone Joshua Hopkins produced slightly stronger sounds than his partner, tenor Andrew Stenson. Both Alessandro Corbelli (Don Alfonso) and Elena Tsallagova (Despina) also shone. Rising conductor, James Gaffigan, coaxed spirited playing that never flagged from Lyric’s excellent musicians. A special call-out goes to scenic designer, Robert Perdziola, who also oversaw the costumes.

At the end, I witnessed something rare in the opera house. The audience rose en masse, with no prompting, even before the curtain calls began. No one was running to catch the train or hail a taxi. If you too need an elixir as I did at last Saturday’s opening, head to the pharmacy at Madison and South Wacker and catch the delightful concoction Lyric is offering.

Five more performances remain, with the next performance on Monday, February 26. For tickets and information, call the box office at 312/827-5600 or go to www.lyricopera.org.

 

2 Responses to “Bees Do It, Fleas Do It, Let’s Fall in Love”

  • iris cohen says:

    Thanks for your review. That opera was not in my subscription this season. My next opera is Puritani and then Faust. Enjoy reading your reviews.
    Iris

  • Mittie Parrino says:

    Thank you, Tom, for the lovely review. How fortunate we are to have such a
    pharmacy and you to review its delightful concoctions.
    Mittie

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