Così fan tutte
Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center
Friday, August 7, 2009, 8 pm
Ari Pelto, conductor
Robin Guarino, Director
Benjamin LeClair, Don Alfonso
John Chest, Guglielmo
Alex Mansoori, Ferrando
Ellie Jarrett, Dorabella
Lara Ciekiewicz, Fiodiligi
Caitlin Mathes, Despina
Così fan tutte already makes me uncomfortable, so I was immediately dismayed when I entered the theater & saw a setting that was some sort of rehearsal studio, with no sign of 18th century Naples. For a while we had Guglielmo & Ferrando as actors showing up for their 1st day of work with Don Alfonso as their director. However, either the concept petered out or the production team ran out of ideas, for by Act II things were looking much more standard. I did appreciate that wherever possible things were played for laughs & that it was an appropriately silly staging. The Act I finale had some great funny business, as when the 4 pranksters used Don Alfonso's cell phone to take pictures of themselves in their ridiculous outfits.
I really liked the singing of Caitlin Mathes as Despina. Her voice is high, clean, bright & pretty, & she did a wonderfully comic flat accent as the notary in the Act II finale. John Chest, as Guglielmo, sounds deeper than one expects when looking at him. He sang Il cor vi dono shirtless, placing himself squarely in barihunk territory. Lara Ciekiewicz has a voice that is penetrating in the high register, good for Fiodiligi's high-flying arias, though she interpolated some steps into one of those broad leaps in Come scoglio. Alex Mansouri sounded fluid & secure, if at times squeezed, in the demanding part of Ferrando. Ellie Jarrett's Dorabella was suitably vivacious yet goofy, & I liked her gritty mezzo voice. Benjamin LeClair has an open, slightly raw sound, & he made himself a significant presence throughout, despite the role's lack of arias.
For me the best parts of the evening were the many glorious ensembles. I always heard every singer during the tutti parts, & the orchestra, not being in a pit, had a strong presence. The combined sound was very full, & the finales came across powerfully in the relatively small Cowell Theater.
During the intermission I was introduced, with a little trepidation, to Joshua Kosman. I was relieved to find him funny, friendly & welcoming to bloggers. I believe he was surprised to discover that Axel Feldheim is nothing but a rather misleading pseudonym. It was also a pleasant surprise to meet in person Maura Lafferty of the New Century Chamber Orchestra. And The Opera Tattler pointed out to me oboeinsight, who was in the orchestra & played some fine solos.