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Così fan tutte

(Left to right) David Adam Moore as Guglielmo and Matthew Plenk as Ferrando
(L to R) David Adam Moore as Guglielmo
and Matthew Plenk as Ferrando
Photo: Lisa Zetah
Leveraging a delightful tongue-in-cheek melodramatic style and clever ending in Central City Opera's current production, director Stephen Barlow has taken a potentially vexing classic and solved it, defusing any perceived sexism, while resolving the plot in a most pleasing manner, without any forced, "politically correct," messaging. Bravo!

In reviewing another production of this opera, produced last fall at the Met, Zachary Woolfe of The New York Times wrote:

But how does the opera end? After two young men disguise themselves, successfully seduce each otherís girlfriends, then reveal the con, who goes home with whom? Do the new pairings turn out to be the right ones? Does everyone leave in disgust, alone? Does one of the women finish the opera about to kill herself?

Iíve seen all of these options staged. A lot of directors these days want to prove the darkness and rigor of their takes on the piece by avoiding a happy ending and severing the old couples irreparably.

But in this case the happy ending may be the harder, realer one. Mozartís characters learn all there is to know about the people they love, and they reconcile anyway. Life goes on, together. Itís like the end of Whoís Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: After a night of battle, Martha asks, "Just ... us?"

(Left to right) Patrick Carfizzi as Don Alfonso, David Adam Moore as Guglielmo, and Matthew Plenk as Ferrando
(L to R) Patrick Carfizzi as Don Alfonso,
David Adam Moore as Guglielmo,
and Matthew Plenk as Ferrando
Photo: Lisa Zetah
So, there you have it: Over the past 226 years, Così fan tutte has proven to be so cleverly structured that it can accomodate a wide variety of interpretations. We won't spoil your experience by telling you how Barlow chooses to end this, but one thing is certain: a conventional ending, with the lovers returning to their betroths, as Woolfe describes, would only play into the sexist premise that the professor, Don Alfonso (Patrick Carfizzi), uses to sucker Ferrando (Matthew Plenk) and Guglielmo (David Adam Moore) into a bet regarding their love interests, Fiordiligi (Hailey Clark) and Dorabella (Tamara Gura).

Hailey Clark as Fiordiligi
Hailey Clark as Fiordiligi
Photo: Lisa Zetah
Above and beyond the well-played humor and unique ending are the transcendant voices. The story creates opportunities for a variety of multiple-part harmonies and counterpoints, which are all delightful in a way that only Mozart could score. Combine this with the work of his longtime collaborator and librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte (who also wrote Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni), and you are gifted with an unsurpassable combination of pairings—the structure of the relationships being elegantly symmetrical, with Don Alfonso and the women's maid, Despina (Megan Marino) being the lynchpins in this double-edged wager and cautionary tale.

(Left to right) Megan Marino as Despina and Tamara Gura as Dorabella
(L to R) Megan Marino as Despina
and Tamara Gura as Dorabella
Photo: Lisa Zetah
Mozart based his music and voices on what he heard in his mind's ear, not on any fixed formulation of soprano, mezzo, contralto, tenor, baritone, and bass; so, there has been casting flexibility over the years, with sopranos covering the mezzo sections, baritones covering bass passages, and so forth. Much of that extended scale work is evident here, and it is all handled with ease. Among the many fine arias, our favorites were: Clark's heartfelt and emotionally dynamic rendition of Fiordiligi's aria, Per pietà, ben mio, perdona ("Please, my beloved, forgive"); Marino's delicious take on Depina's funny and biting, Una donna a quindici anni ("A fifteen year old woman"); Gura's salacious Dorabella admitting her indiscretion to Fiordiligi, È amore un ladroncello ("Love is a little thief"); and the three men, Moore, Plenk, and Carfizzi, taking Guglielmo, Ferrando, and Don Alfonso's masculine insecurities and turning them back on the women, Cosž fan tutte ("All women are like that"). But as we see, men are like that, too!

Make the trip to Central City to hear this! It is so well sung, hilarious, and thoroughly pleasing!

Central City Opera's presentation of Così fan tutte runs through August 4th. For tickets: centralcityopera.org.

Bob Bows



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