A Fine Rendition
'Così fan tutte' at Arizona Opera,
reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN
Arizona Opera opened its 2009-2010 season in Tucson with a rousing performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera buffa, Così fan tutte ossia La scuola degli amanti. ('Women Are All like That or the School for Lovers'), K 588. This libretto, along with those of Le nozze di Figaro ('The Marriage of Figaro') and Don Giovanni, was written by Venetian poet Lorenzo da Ponte.
Michael Mayes as Guglielmo, Lauren McNeese as Dorabella, Caitlin Lynch as Fiordiligi and Scott Ramsay as Ferrando in the Arizona Opera production of 'Così fan tutte'. Photo © 2009 Tim Fuller
Da Ponte, born a Jew, was converted to Catholicism at the age of fourteen with the rest of his family. Later, he was ordained as a priest, but that did not keep him from having affairs with various lady friends. He was asked to leave Venice because of his unseemly behavior. Eventually, he moved to Vienna where he became the court librettist for Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. There, he wrote texts in several languages for composers Antonio Salieri and Vincente Martin y Soler as well as for Mozart. Most of those libretti were taken from books and plays, but Così is not based on a known work, which makes it an unusual opera.
Scott Ramsay as Ferrando, Caitlin Lynch as Fiordiligi, Lauren McNeese as Dorabella and Michael Mayes as Guglielmo in the Arizona Opera production of 'Così fan tutte'. Photo © 2009 Tim Fuller
Arizona Opera's performance on 17 October 2009 featured soprano Caitlin Lynch as Fiordiligi. Although she is a relative newcomer to the opera stage, she has had several notable successes since her graduation from the Seattle Young Artist Program in 2007. Last year she took first place in the Houston Grand Opera Competition and was the recipient of a Sara Tucker Grant. Her Tucson appearance did not disappoint. She sings with a great deal of tonal beauty and has the wide range required for the role of Fiordiligi. Her acting was believable and she portrayed the character with a good deal of humor.
Lauren McNeese as Dorabella, Maureen O'Flynn as Despina and Caitlin Lynch as Fiordiligi in the Arizona Opera production of 'Così fan tutte'. Photo © 2009 Tim Fuller
Singing the tenor role opposite her was Scott Ramsay who seemed just a tiny bit tentative during several of the opera's more difficult passages. He portrayed both the original lover and the Albanian suitor well, however. Silken voiced mezzo-soprano Lauren McNeese is familiar from performances at Los Angeles Opera where she sang the Second Lady in last season's Die Zauberflöte ('The Magic Flute') and is currently engaged as Wellgunde for the Ring of the Nibelungen.
Caitlin Lynch as Fiordiligi in the Arizona Opera production of 'Così fan tutte'. Photo © 2009 Tim Fuller
Both McNeese and Lynch are excellent Mozart singers. Their voices blended with rose-petal loveliness in their duets. Baritone Michael Mayes has a gift for comedy and a strong, virile sound that proved a welcome contrast to the softer tones of the lighter voiced singers. Of course, it was the cynical Don Alfonso and the worldly-wise Despina who fomented the action and held the plot together. Played by Stephen Morscheck, Alfonso made the amusing story come to life.
Maureen O'Flynn as Despina, Caitlin Lynch as Fiordiligi and Lauren McNeese as Dorabella in the Arizona Opera production of 'Così fan tutte'. Photo © 2009 Tim Fuller
Surprisingly, this was Maureen O'Flynn's first Despina. One would have thought she had done it many times because she was so relaxed and so effective in portraying the character's down-to-earth point of view. Director Ron Daniels contributed mightily to the success of this piece by enabling the performers to tell the story well while singing some of the most difficult music currently performed on the opera stage.
Scott Ramsay as Ferrando and Caitlin Lynch as Fiordiligi in the Arizona Opera production of 'Così fan tutte'. Photo © 2009 Tim Fuller
Julian Reed's chorus was not large, but everyone sang in luminous harmony. Scottish conductor Stewart Robertson, who made his début with this performance, drew transparent playing from the Arizona Opera Orchestra with his light, brisk tempi. The orchestra played smoothly and gave a fine rendition of this exquisite masterpiece. Although the hall was not quite full, the audience loved the performance and greeted the artists with thunderous applause.
Copyright © 26 October 2009