Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Cosi fan tutte

As Everyone Does
Mozart at UofT
by Axel Van Chee

Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte is a comedy, a farce on love on the surface, but the depth of human emotions, the anguish, the questioning, the sharp barb of sting is ever present. And it is one of those operas that the directors love to play with: it can be colourfully camp, to intriguingly avant garde, to calculatingly grotesque. The Opera Division at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music’s Cosi went with a traditional production set in a baroque- classical style marble mansion designed by Fred Perruzza, complete with topiaries, roman garden statues, candelabras, a host of house servants, and at one point, an elaborate gondola. With some ingenious directing by Michael Patrick Albano, what is playing at McMillan Theatre is possibly one of the funniest Cosi fan tutte I’ve seen, with just the right amount of hilarity without being vulgar, and still hangs on to the uncertainty which really is the backbone of the opera.

...the struggling started to be quite evident both physically and vocally in Act 2...

The production is shared by two casts, which is typical of a school production, and - also typical with a school production - the singing is very good, but uneven. The thing about Cosi is, it is a relatively easy opera to put on because it only has 6 singers (one can dispense with the chorus, and I have seen a few productions doing just that quite successfully). But this is no easy Mozart and it is as long as a Wagner, and the struggling started to be quite evident both physically and vocally in Act 2, particularly with the men. But the troop bravely fought on.

Rocco Rupolo is a sweet voiced Ferrando, and perhaps just a little too sweet as it washes out all the urgency in Mozart, making him sound more like an excellent chorister. Dimitri Katotakis is a comedic bumbling Guglielmo, strong voiced, but tends to cut off his last note shorter than the designated value. Julien Patenaude is an energetic Don Alfonso, although he also struggles towards the end of the opera.

The women generally fare better than the men. Alyson Spina’s Despina is well acted and ably sung, delivering all the laughs as both the doctor and the notary. Jennifer Schinzel has a beautiful top range that cuts through the hall, although she has not developed the chest voice needed to really cover the full range of Fiordiligi. Erica Iris Huang who sings the role of Dorabella comes across as the most experienced singer amongst the group. Her recitative is nuanced and an absolute delight to hear. She is also an accomplished singer/ actress who is fully engaged with all the characters on stage.

Conductor Miah Im who also plays the continuo on the harpsichord, is a wonder to watch in the podium. She conducted with grace, clear direction, and kept a calm hand even when things got a bit rough.

But then again, I am being nit-picky. These are bright students who have a great future in the opera world. And this production is so well done, that one can forgive all these minor blemishes. 

Cosi Fan Tutte runs to March 10

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.