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Cosi fan tutte: Celebrating Lorenzo da Ponte in Tokyo

Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku Sogakudo
10/16/1999 -  
Wolfgang AmadeusMozart : Cosi fan tutte
Shimazaki Tomoko (Fiordiligi), Obata Akemi (Dorabella), Tatara Michio (Guglielmo), Inoue Ryoiji (Ferrando), Nishino Kaoru (Despina), Mine Shigeki (Don Alfonso)
Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku Philhamonia and Senior Vocal Students, James Lockhart (conductor), Suzuki Toshiaki (designer), Kunimatsu Machiko (director), Watanabe Sonoko (costumes)

These performances were in honour of the 250th anniversary of the birth of the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. They were produced by the Tokyo Nikikai Opera Theatre in cooperation with Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku (Tokyo Fine Arts University). Professional singers took the major roles while students formed the orchestra and chorus. James Lockhart directed the musical forces, giving very clear direction to his players and conveying a sense of urgency and purpose to the occasion.

Così fan tutte is all about singing, particularly ensemble singing, and if it is also about the sex war, then on this occasion the men were the clear winners. Inoue Ryoiji (Ferrando) had an attractive, bright, clear natural sound and a strong commanding presence. His singing wasn't always as clean as it might be and at times he seemed to force, which shouldn't be necessary in a hall of only a thousand-odd seats. Given a smoother delivery and more accuracy he could be a very fine performer.

Tatara Michio was a strong Guglielmo. His baritone may be a little heavy for the role but his sonorous voice was a consistent pleasure. His second act aria 'Donne mie, la fate a tanti' was perhaps the best executed of the evening. As in the case of his performance as Yashao in the Japanese opera Shuzenji Monogatari in July, clearer diction could have made it even better. The two men sang well together. Mine Shigeki was to have sung Don Alfonso once on the 16th, but in the event he sang it twice. The second performance (I didn't see the first) was rather tentative, the acting lacked authority and elegance, and the voice was rather 'wooly' and strained at the climaxes. Sometimes just standing up straight is half the battle . . .

Shimazaki Tomoko (Fiordiligi) launched her performance with a fearsome wobble, that gradually became less obtrusive as the evening went on. The basic timbre of her voice is pleasing. Obata Akemi (Dorabella) started with the same basic problem but regrettably improved rather less. Nishina Kaori has an attractive voice just right for Despina, but she played shy with the audience on her entry and embarked on her solo arias without any kind of sparkle or attack. A Despina who worries about whether the audience is going to like her - is not a Despina!

The production began interestingly with a bar room scene, a group of drinkers scoffing with Don Alfonso at the two lovers, but the production was one with interesting ideas rather than any overall concept. For many scenes wooden shutters were used in the place of curtains - exactly as in Met production with sets by Michael Yeargan that was seen here in 1997. There were some good touches, an amazing magnetism contraption for Despina's doctor role, and the big party reception scene in the second act was an opulent affair complete with belly dancers. For some reason the decor gradually became more and more Islamic during the second act, though there was no suggestion that anybody had left Naples. Removal of stage props (poison bottles, candles etc.) was at times obtrusive.

The new Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku Sogakudo (Tokyo Fine Arts University Recital Hall?) is a fine theatre. Strange metal clips hang in many rows from the ceiling. Not sure why . . . a do-it-yourself acoustic system?

N.B. Japanese names are given as publicized, surname first.

Simon Holledge



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