A Canadian-Israeli production of an Austrian’s Italian opera

Renowned film director Atom Egoyan directs the current production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte at the Israel Opera in Tel Aviv

It is not unusual for foreign artists to appear in -- and even direct -- productions of the Israel Opera; but when that director has two Oscar nominations to his credit, it makes one sit up and take notice. The company’s current production of Cosi Fan Tutte, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is being directed by Canadian-Armenian Atom Egoyan, whose two Academy Award nominations were for the 1997 movie The Sweet Hereafter.



Upon closer investigation, Egoyan’s role becomes less of a mystery: the production as a whole is actually one of the Canadian Opera Company, being performed by the Israel Opera under the direction of an entire team from Canada, including Set and Costume Designer Debra Hanson and Lighting Designer Michael Walton.


Austrian Italian Opera  (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)
Austrian Italian Opera (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)


The leading roles, however, are being sung by sabra mainstays of the Israel Opera: mezzo sopranos Na’ama Goldman and Anat Czarny alternating in the role of Dorabella; sopranos Noa Danon and Yael Levita alternating in the role of Fiordiligi; sopranos Hila Baggio and Daniela Skorka alternating in the role of Despina; and baritone Oded Reich in the role of Guglielmo.


Even Romanian baritone Ionut Pascu, in the role of Don Alfonso, is a regular at the Israel Opera, appearing in several productions every year, and already his second of the current season.


Only British tenor Alasdair Kent, in the role of Ferrando, is making his Israel Opera debut. Italian tenor Gabriele Ribis, who alternates in the role of Don Alfonso, rounds out the cast.


Austrian Italian Opera  (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)
Austrian Italian Opera (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)


Meanwhile, the musical component of this production is being performed not by the resident orchestra of the Israel Opera, but rather the Israel Camerata Orchestra of Jerusalem, conducted by Daniel Cohen. The alternate conductor is Ethan Schmeisser, who is the chorus master of Israel Opera Chorus.


While the highlights of the June 3 premiere included the renditions of the arias Come Scoglio and Per Pieta (sung by Ms. Danon as Fiordiligi), as well as Un Aura Amorosa (sung by Mr. Reich as Ferrando), the show was practically stolen by Ms. Baggio, who acted the role of Despina -- and the two male characters she portrayed in disguise -- as well as she sings. She put the comedy in the opera buffa that is exactly what Mozart intended when he labeled his work as such.


Austrian Italian Opera  (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)
Austrian Italian Opera (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)


Moreover, it is to Director Egoyan’s credit that he elicited these amusing performances from the cast of characters.


Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the set design and costumes. I suppose the set designer can be forgiven for living up to the opera’s alternate title, School for Lovers; but her literal interpretation -- the first act set in a classroom, with our two heroines dressed as teenage schoolgirls in uniform, and the chorus as classmates a constant (and mostly silent) presence, constantly taking notes -- was, well juvenile, and often distracting.


Austrian Italian Opera (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)
Austrian Italian Opera (Photo: Yossi Zwecker)


Worse, the two female leads had very similar hair coloring and styles; and dressed exactly identically, it was nearly impossible to tell them apart. This was frustrating, since the surtitles in this production never identified who was singing the lyrics. The same problem was repeated with the two nearly alike male leads, until the audience could began to identify one of them as having darker hair.


When the two male leads are supposedly called up to the military, and the chorus of students sings of the glory of being soldiers, the contradiction is jarring. And when the giant props appear -- butterflies, and long pins -- the result is simply confusing.


The current production of Cosi Fan Tutte will run through June 15. The next production of the Israel Opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, will be the final opera of the 2018-19 season.


פרסום ראשון: 06.11.19, 15:35
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