- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) - “Cosi” comes to Coney Island in the latest “Live in HD” presentation from the Metropolitan Opera.

It’s Phelim McDermott’s whimsical take on Mozart’s bittersweet comedy “Cosi fan tutte,” set in a boardwalk amusement park much like a 1950s version of New York’s Coney Island.

That means the story of two pairs of young lovers whose loyalties are tested plays out not in the 18th-century Naples of the original but rather amid a bustling world of snake charmers, sword swallowers and fire eaters.

“It’s unusual for me to go, ‘Let’s set this in such-and-such a period,’” McDermott said in an interview earlier this month at the Met. “But when Tom (set designer Tom Pye) suggested the idea, it felt like it would hold the story well and would help the suspension of disbelief that you have to create.”

That suspension is crucial to the plot, in which a cynical older gentleman bets his two young friends that their sweethearts will betray them if given a chance. In the original, the men pretend to go off to war, reappear disguised as wealthy Albanians and promptly begin wooing each other’s girlfriends.

“One of the things people did say to me about ‘Cosi’ was, ‘You know I never believe those girls would not recognize those guys,’” McDermott said. “For me, the Coney Island sideshow world is a slightly magical world where people get swept up in a romantic dream that actually, if you scratch the surface, it’s not real.

“If you set it in that setting, the audience realizes it’s a game. So for me it’s like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ you get swept up in the dream. The girls don’t know what’s going to happen, the boys don’t know what’s going to happen next, it’s a roller coaster they’re on.”

Instead of Albanians, the men return disguised as carnival workers. “It’s a particular idea of a so-called sexy man that buttoned-up ladies get turned on by,” McDermott said. “Like the boys who stand on the back of the bumper cars and kind of flirt with the girls as they jump from ride to ride.”

The production, which originated in 2014 at the English National Opera in London, will be broadcast live to movie theaters around the world on Saturday.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

In the libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, after the disguises come off and the deceptions are exposed, the lovers reconcile with their original partners.

Some productions have suggested they might instead stick with their new lovers, but McDermott said that directorial liberty didn’t appeal to him.

“I think the piece is ambiguous at the end,” he said. “What, they’re back with their original lovers? What’s THAT going to be like! I find that more interesting than solving it or making a specific statement.”

WHERE TO SEE IT

“Cosi fan tutte” stars soprano Amanda Majeski and mezzo Serena Malfi as the young women, tenor Ben Bliss and baritone Adam Plachetka as their suitors, baritone Christopher Maltman as Don Alfonso and Broadway star Kelli O’Hara as the wily maid Despina. The performance, conducted by David Robertson, will be shown Saturday. A list of theaters can be found at the Met’s website: http://www.metopera.org/hd. In the United States it will be repeated on April 4.


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