"Fatal Song" doesn't mock the arias themselves, mind. The performances in Utah Opera's production, which opened Thursday, are never less than solid, and in some cases, they're downright glorious. The cabaret-style seating puts the audience in the thick of the action. It's a rare treat to sit just feet away from soprano Celena Shafer as she sings Lucia di Lammermoor's aria "Regnava nel silencio," for example, or to get a close-up view of soprano Jennifer Welch-Babidge pouring out her heart in "Mi chiamono Mimì" from "La bohème" or Pamina's suicide aria from "The Magic Flute." Such moments give new appreciation for the singer's art.
But even the most ardent fans of opera — and, judging by her astute musical choices and witty script, Cahill is a member of that group — must admit that the art form is ripe for parody. "Put a sweater on, Mimì," says soprano Amy Owens, in character as Figaro's beloved Susanna. "And do something about that cough."
Later in the show, Mimì is surprised to learn that Violetta plans to throw a party when she is clearly dying of consumption. "You can hardly speak," Mimì exclaims.
"But I can still sing!" replies Violetta, played by soprano Megan Cash, and she launches into a rousing rendition of "Sempre libera."
Other highlights include mezzo Kirsten Gunlogsen's performance of Carmen's "Habanera," Owens' spirited "Glitter and Be Gay" from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" and tenor Tyson Miller's earnest portrayal of Manon Lescaut's beloved Chevalier Des Grieux. Baritone Christopher Clayton oozes malevolent charm as the Master of Ceremonies, who manipulates the action.
Costume designer Patti Campbell dresses all five women in simple ivory frocks, accessorized by key costume pieces that make it easy to remember who's who as the arias and characters fly by. Conductor Jerry Steichen also gives a few clever cues from the piano, and Jim Christian's stage direction strikes the right comic notes.