April 7th, 2011

Sylight Opera: "Cosi Fan Tutte"

One would not necessarily have expected that the most controversial performance we would see this season would be one of Mozart's light comedy, Cosi Fan Tutte. In this case, the Skylight's decision to set the opera in Chicago, 1959, was not so much the issue as was the updated libretto by Dimitri Toscas. This libretto, written in the English vernacular of the time, and also in the Playboy magazine infused milieu of the time, was vehemently hated by some critics, notably Rick Walters of the Shepherd Express, who decried the replacement of the "magical" Lorenzo Da Ponte libretto with Toscas' "tasteless" one. One supposes that the degree of magicalness of Da Ponte's writing may depend upon how well you understand Da Ponte's Italian. (I have my doubts about Walters' comprehension, since he describes the opera's title as an "untranslatable phrase," whereas "Thus Do They All", to my knowledge has been at least one received gloss on the idiom for decades--.)

Suffice to say, we did not agree with Mr. Walters. The plot, which involves two young men "testing" the fidelity of their lady loves at the prompting of a cynical older friend, has been at least somewhat controversial for its sexism for years, and setting it in an era where that sexism, although still entrenched, was beginning to come under fire, was a workable choice.   Although there was a bit of suggestive humor in some of the men's songs, we didn't consider it tasteless, and, although perhaps not sparkling, witty enough and funny. We thought that Mozart would have approved. Mr. Toscas was also the Stage Director, and showed signs of learning stage business management from Skylight Artistic Director Bill Thiesen, since the action was both lively and humorous, but not distracting from the singing.

The modular set worked cleverly, and costumes were period-appropriate (including "bullet" bras and crinoline petticoats for the women) and looked good.

We had decided that we were going to enjoy Mozart's music if nothing else, and we were very happy with that decision. The orchestra, under the direction of Pasquale Laurino gave a nice clear and pleasant performance, which supported the singers very well.  The singers were well worth listening to, notably Skylight veteran Kathy Pyeatt as "Flora" (Flordiligi) and Mark Womack as "Elmo" (Guglielmo), but Lindsey Falduto (Dora/Dorabella), Brandon Wood (Randall/Ferrando), and Peter Clark (Fonzarello/Don Alfonso) all sang and acted excellently as well. Danielle Hermon Wood, in the role of Despina (here, a secretarial pool manager) not only performed up to the standards of the rest of the cast, but appeared in disguise as a doctor, nightclub singer, and an Orthodox priest, which required some vigorous clowning.

All in all, we had a very enjoyable afternoon at the opera. This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/180532.html. Please comment there using OpenID.