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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

U of L School of Music Opera Theatre Delivers a Solid “Cosi”

Così fan tutte

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte

A review by Heather O’ Mara

Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Heather O’ Mara. All rights reserved. 

Nicholas Drew Grey, Nicholas Ward & Patrick MacDevitt
in Cosi fan Tutte. Photo by Jan Abbott.
The third installment of Mozart’s collaboration with librettist Lorenzo De Ponte, Così fan tutte takes opera buffs to a grand spectacle and the University of Louisville School of Music Opera Theatre truly delivered.

The story revolves around two pairs of lovers (Fiordiligi, sung by Chloe Blayne Richard and Guglielmo, performed by Nicholas Drew Grey; Alex Bryant as Dorabella and Patrick MacDevitt as Ferrando) whose faithfulness is put into question when the philosopher Don Alfonso (sung by Nicholas Ward) bets the two men that their fiancés are not as true as they think.  With the assistance of the divisive maid Despina, performed by Haley de Witt, the men manipulate their lovers by pretending they are being sent off to war, disguising themselves as Albanians and wooing each other’s beloved. For a complete synopsis, go to the Metropolitan Opera website. 

For the most part, the young performers did a fine job. Nicholas Ward’s Don Alfonzo was a lot of fun to watch and perhaps the best actor on stage. Nicholas Drew Grey was a very strong Guglielmo and supported the duets with Patrick MacDevitt, whose comic acting was enjoyable yet displayed the most room for improvement.  Alex Bryant was also engaging, and her facial expressions throughout the comedy were the perfect embellishment required for opera afficianados.  

Of particular note was soprano Chloe Blayne Richard’s work as Fiordiligi.  She is a beautiful girl with a beautiful instrument.  Her Act II aria, Per pietà, ben mio, perdona—"Please, my beloved, forgive," was stunning, with great breath control and a sweet, yet still strong upper register. This girl is one to watch.

I must confess to some disappointed with Haley De Witt’s Despina.  This character has the most versatility and the greatest opportunity to take the comedy over the top, but instead I felt her limited more to teenage angst than comically manipulative servant.  Acting can be taught; vocal talents can be trained but usually must spring from a natural gift, which I believe Ms.De Witt has, despite her awkward characterization. Her voice is beautiful; and while soft on the lower elements, it has great potential.
  
I was glad the young singers kept the original language, and with the help of the supertitles (translations projected above the stage) the audience was able to keep up with the complicated story line.

Miles Ray’s simple set was effective and easily transitioned from scene to scene with well-placed trees, French doors and period furniture. (Some of the set pieces were recycled from previous productions.)  The smooth scene shifts were accomplished entirely by the chorus members, who had some very funny slap-stick moments in the background.  The black-and-white tiled flooring provided sharp and dramatic contrast to the plain scrim that was lit with softly evolving color to reflect each shift of mood.

Suzanne Stone and Hilda Carr did a beautiful job costuming the students, with one exception: the camisoles worn by the sisters in the second act were a bit too fitted and sheer robes would have provided more modest coverage. From the choruss’ peasant wear, to the intricate costumes of the Albanians, the costumes were well crafted and perfectly suited for the production. The ivory and copper dresses worn by the sisters at the end of Act Two were beautiful and I would like one for myself.

The stars of the show were Kimcherie Lloyd and the University of Louisville Symphony Orchestra. Lloyd masterfully conducted the young but very well equipped players. The 33-piece band displayed great chemistry, and save for a few clinkers, sounded as fully prepared. The overture was light as it should be, and throughout the opera the musicians controlled their dynamics in a difficult space. The Bomhard was not meant for opera, and without an orchestra pit, the players had to temper their volume so the voices could reach the audience.  Lloyd was seated at the harpsichord and when playing the recitatives, she would put the baton in her teeth like a rose, amusing myself and my companion for the evening.

I must also congratulate director Michael Ramach, who took his liberties at the end with great results.  As the story is written, the ladies are caught in their deception and are forgiven and all live happily ever after. Ramach makes the ending much more realistic by allowing the two ingénues to be angry that they had been so outrageously manipulated and storming off, leaving their (jerk) boyfriends behind. 

(Cast references are to the Friday evening performance. For the Sunday matinee, Kentucky Opera Studio Artists Jasmine Davis performs Fiordiligi and Phillip Morgan sings Guglielmo.)

The final performance of Così fan tutte will be on Sunday, April 1, at 2 p.m.  General admission tickets are $22.75 and are available by calling The Kentucky Center Box Office.

Così fan tutte

March 30, 2012, at 8pm
April 1, 2012, at 2pm

University of Louisville School of Music Opera Theatre
at the Bomhard Theater in The Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40205
502-584-7777

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