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Strong singing, fabulous costumes make ‘Così fan tutte’ a sure bet

First Published      Last Updated Mar 20 2015 01:20 pm

Opera review » Utah Opera stages a sparkling production of the Mozart comedy.

"Così fan tutte" doesn't always get its due. Wagner and Beethoven were among its famous detractors. And as the last of three operas written by the greatest composer-librettist team in history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, it's often overshadowed by "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Don Giovanni."

But it would be a big mistake to underestimate this opera. It's a masterpiece of musical and psychological sophistication, tempered with wit, compassion and genuine humanity. Utah Opera's handsome, well-sung production, which opened a five-performance run Saturday, captures all those qualities.

A well-matched cast is essential in this ensemble show, in which the six principal roles carry more or less equal weight. Artistic director Christopher McBeth's casting is spot on. Karin Wolverton and Leah Wool, who play the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, not only deliver their big arias with panache, their voices are compatible enough to make you believe they could be sisters. David Adam Moore and Aaron Blake, as the sisters' fiancés Guglielmo and Ferrando, likewise sound fantastic together as well as on their own. Matthew Burns, whom many operagoers will remember from his outstanding performance in the company's "Of Mice and Men" a couple of years ago, invests the cynical Don Alfonso with a depth that may surprise you; even the fun-loving maid Despina has a surprise or two to offer in Abigail Levis' delightful portrayal.

Utah Opera's costume shop continues its winning streak with this production. Designer Susan Memmott-Allred has outfitted the principals and chorus in fabulous 1920s fashions that are more than up to the task of dressing up the minimalist set, and Yancey Quick's hair and makeup design is every bit as eye-catching as the costumes.

The orchestra is especially important in "Così fan tutte," because with all the deception unfolding onstage, the audience sometimes must look to Mozart's music for the truth. Will Crutchfield leads the Utah Symphony in a crisp, beautifully paced performance of the sparkling score. The orchestra's woodwinds, in particular, shine in their prominent role, and the continuo team of Carol Anderson (harpsichord) and Rainer Eudeikis (cello) deftly supports the recitatives — the speechlike sections that connect the arias and ensemble numbers.

Few, if any, could match Mozart and da Ponte at balancing farcical comedy and keen psychological insight. The physical comedy in Crystal Manich's staging kept Saturday's audience engaged and laughing to the end of the 3-hour-plus evening, but never at the expense of the characters' emotional journeys. Under Manich's direction, all six characters ultimately are sympathetic; all six performers help us understand why they behave and believe as they do. Despite the outcome remaining in doubt until the end, there's a logical resolution — or, at least, as logical as real life can be.



‘Così fan tutte’

Utah Opera presents the Mozart-da Ponte classic “Così fan tutte.” The opera is sung in Italian, with supertitles in English.

When » Reviewed Saturday March 14; evening performances continue Monday, Wednesday and Friday, March 16, 18 and 20, at 7:30, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, March 22

Where » Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $18-$95 ($5 more on performance day); $10 for those under age 30; www.utahopera.org

Running time » 3 hours and 10 minutes, including intermission

In a nutshell » Two men in disguise test their fiancées’ fidelity on a dare. What could possibly go wrong?

Learn more » Utah Opera principal coach Carol Anderson will give a free lecture an hour before curtain, and artistic director Christopher McBeth will field questions after each performance; all these sessions will take place in the theater’s Capitol Room.

A toast » The company again has invited local mixologists to create cocktails inspired by the opera. People who post photos of their drinks on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #UtahOperaSips will be entered in a drawing for a pair of tickets to the March 20 performance. Details at www.utahopera.org/libations.