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Subject: MET COSI cast changes: Groves/Stillwell
From: William Fregosi <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 10 Mar 1996 11:24:56 EST
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At the MET last night Paul Groves and Richard Stillwell went on in place of
Hadley and Allen (planned, not as substitutes) and the ensemble was, in my
opinion, stronger for the changes.

Mr. Groves is miles ahead of Hadley in terms of style and smoothness of vocal
emission.  His is not a perfect tenore leggiero--there is no trill and we dis-
covered in the Boston BARBIERE that he lacks coloratura facility.  But he has
line and an attractive timbre and he can execute a diminuendo on a high head
note without losing support in an evenly graded manner without strain.  He is
a relaxed, confident comedian and has ample volume for the MET without forcing.
He got a very warm reception and deserved it.  The level of his preparation by
the company was such that he fit into the ensemble without any sense that he
hadn't been there all along.  Richard Stillwell was a suave Alfonso, vocally
and dramatically.  He stressed the character's kinship with the "raissoneur"
figure in French comedies of manners, with less bitter cynicism than simple
realistic acceptance of life and its foibles, along with genuine care for his
young "pupils."

This production demonstrates why one shouldn't take too much stock in print
criticism.  At NO point was it even hinted at that the ladies knew or suspected
and Despina was the most shocked of all at the revelation at the end.  Ms.
Koenig also kept the resolution somewhat ambiguous--all through the finale
the lovers uneasily group and regroup.  When they sit for the final toast, the
original pairs are reunited on each side of the table, but when thy clink
glasses, each reaches across the table to the partner he/she had during the
masquerade.  Clearly, this story has not ended and will have no simplistic
solution.

I admired the production very much--it is witty, theatrical, it honors the
(blessedly complete) text, and is filled with the hot languor of the southern
Italian sun.  The rest of the casting was as in the broadcast and very strong.
Croft is a major voice and stage presence.  Vanness was in very fine form and
makes Fiordiligi a heartbreakingly real woman, ideally paired as a sister
to Mentzer.  Bartoli is *sui generis*--a real creature of the stage, inhabiting
her character with total identification and communication with the audience--
Dian: I have to disagree that Soviero is the "last of a dying breed, the
singing actress."  Bartoli is one down to the ground.  By the way, she did the
notary completely differently from the broadcast.  Instead of the stuttering
Dottore Tartaglia she did the broadly accented americanized Italian--very funny
and clearly this lady has more than one take on anything she does.

The ultimate tribute I can pay to this production and performance is that I
drove back to Boston last night thinking what an incredibly rich, true to life,
and beautiful opera COSI is.

Bill Fregosi
<[log in to unmask]>

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