Busy Dancers Annoy Audience In Paris Così

Review by: Robert Levine


Artistic Quality: 4

Sound Quality: 9

I had a feeling we were in trouble when the 12 soloists appeared on stage. Director/choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker decided that each character in the opera should have a double who dances, frequently underlining the emotional state of said character (working under the presumption that the singer portraying each is simply not good enough, I guess). At the start, they all wear black–in mourning? But even the dress-alike-ness of each pair’s later color choices stops being entertaining soon after it begins.

We get very little of the singers’ relationships with one another–sometimes it’s lovey-dovey, at others, it’s cold. I guess this is the ambiguity of plot we’re accustomed to, but it is an amazingly wrong-headed way to go about it. They simply seem inexpressive or confused; it’s like watching a run-through with a new cast, followed by the “second” cast, which truly understands the opera. There is so much motion on stage that we finally realize that these people have no idea what they’re doing, which is an underlying point of Così, except here they are aimless, whimsical, and acting.

Jan Versweyfeld’s set is white or light gray, the walls industrial/windowless (forget the Bay of Naples), the floor looking like an ice-skating rink with interlinking circles, panels of plexiglass, and cocktail carts. Period. Plenty of room for dancing, and easy to see the pink sneakers on the dancers.

Some of the singing is quite good: Paolo Szot’s Alfonso is wickedly sly and his sound is rich, but his dancer twirls while Szot is being subtle. On the other hand, Ginger Costa-Jackson’s music as Despina is entertainingly mimicked, but Costa-Jackson is so perfect herself that underlining isn’t needed. She emotes well in her disguises while her dancer wears a funny nose. Look away.

Beautiful Jacquelyn Wagner is a fine Fiordiligi, missing only some authority in low notes and a bit of heft. She deals well with both of her arias’ slow tempos. Her boyfriend (?) Ferrando is a marvelous tenor named Frédéric Antoun, mellow of voice and sweet in his first aria, while he exhibits bite in his angrier moments. Michèle Losier’s fine mezzo is juicy in her arias and pointed in ensembles, and her acting seems less stifled than her sister’s. Philippe Sly, an elegant Mozart baritone, does what he can with a Guglielmo who is directed to look stupid.

Philippe Jordan, despite a weirdly quick “Soave sia il vento”, gets great playing and coloring from the Paris Opera Orchestra, and so you feel even worse that there’s nothing to look at that makes sense. You say innovative, I say it’s an opera. Watch Zurich Opera’s production and have a great time!

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Zurich Opera House Orchestra, Welser-Möst (arthaus)

  • Jacquelyn Wagner, Ginger Costa-Jackson (soprano); Michèle Losier (mezzo-soprano); Frédéric Antoun (tenor); Philippe Sly, Paulo Szot (baritone)
  • Paris Opera Orchestra & Chorus, Philippe Jordan

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