Cosi the restaurant originated some 20 years ago on the rue de Seine in Paris, where patrons selected their own fillings for toasted sandwiches while opera tapes provided entertainment. Concept now replicated at almost 100 shops in the US, baking artisan breads with choice of toppings. Tasty breakfast sandwich with egg, tomato, bacon, cheese & coffee a reasonable $3.49.
On to opening night at the opera. Glass of bubbly, then a new modern-dress staging of the familiar tale: two friends engaged to sisters. On a bet, they disguise themselves and woo each other's girls. Soprano Alexandra Deshorties plays Fiordiligi as Paris Hilton in a ditzy pink jacket. At first she stands up to the challenge of fidelity ("Come scoglio"--Like a rock) but crumbles midway through the second act with the opera's most moving aria, ("Per pieta"--Have pity).
Miller directs Deshorties; onstage duet. Seattle Opera photos.
Traditional staging has both couples excusing the indiscretions because, after all, Cosi fan tutte: women are like that, fickle. And the music is so joyful, it sounds like a romp.
But contemporary foursomes can't switch allegiances so easily. Consider recent films like Closer (2004) and you'll realize that a modern Cosi can well be a lot darker. Here's where the vision of Jonathan Miller comes in. A brilliant director, he coaxes a full range of emotional performances from all six singers without compromising their voices.
It's probably the most persuasive staging of an opera I've ever seen. When it's over, with the lovers all despising each other, it's infinitely more credible than the "conventional" happy ending. Big bravo!
PS: Seattle Times arts writer Melinda Bargreen interviews Jonathan Miller: link
PPS: And a final question: what do you say if your sandwich is too cold? "Che gelida pannini" perhaps? Or, if it's too hard, "Come scoglio"?
Cosi, 1601 3rd Ave., Seattle, 206-405-3294
Seattle Opera presents Cosi Fan Tutte through March 11. Tickets online or call 206-389-7676