A chess set figures prominently among the props for the Cal State Long Beach Opera production of Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutte," which closed Thursday at a deluxe site: the Queen's Salon on the Queen Mary. But a collection of puppets would have been more appropriate.
Stage director Stephanie Vlahos has moved the action to the venerable ocean liner itself during a voyage in 1939, despite obvious contradictions in the text. She turns the two sisters into silly Americans (although later we hear them described as Sicilians) and their two suitors-in-disguise into Argentines, one of whom sports a bullwhip. Subtlety isn't the name of the game here.
Vlahos has hyped-up the role of Dorabella, who has to be subdued with a hypodermic injection (shades of Peter Sellars' "Don Giovanni") and who begins flirting with the disguised Guglielmo the instant she sees him.
When Fiordiligi capitulates, Ferrando begins to undress her. When Don Alfonso delivers his anti-women soliloquy, he is lit in a devilish red spot (get it?) and paws Despina as he buys her assistance. For her part, Despina flirts with several available waiters.