The UNF Opera Ensemble presented Mozart’s comic opera “Cosi Fan Tutte” under the direction of Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki for four performances from November 9 – 12 in the Robinson Theatre on the campus of the University of North Florida.
This production of “Cosi Fan Tutte”(translated “Thus Do They All”) was a special treat for North Florida opera fans, as this is the same opera that the Ensemble staged for six performances earlier this year in the Czech Republic city of Teplice at the City Opera Theatre. In 2011, UNF had taken “Marriage of Figaro” to that same city for four performances.
Mozart’s comedy farce debuted in 1790 and was performed several times that year but never done in Vienna again during Mozart’s life time. The subject matter was considered a bit risqué for the times and it wasn’t until 1811 that it finally made its way to London. The first American performance, in 1922, was done by the Metropolitan Opera. Times change and so do tastes. After World War II, “Cosi Fan Tutte” became one of the top fifteen most popular operas performed in the world.
The Dual Critics recommend “Cosi Fan Tutte” as an excellent choice for anyone just wanting to explore the world of opera. It has only six principal characters, the plot is easy to follow, lots of fun, and underscored with resplendent music. UNF made it especially easy for the audience by including a synopsis in the program and projecting English surtitles above the stage.
Since this is an after-the-fact review, we will touch only briefly on the plot, which is set in Naples. Sisters Fiordiligi (Brianna Sparklin) and Dorabella (Kerra Simmons) are engaged to military officers Guglielmo (Jacob Rothman) and Ferrando (Bryan Hayes). During a conversation in a cafe the two young men profess their trust in the fidelity of their fiancées. Don Alfonso (Peter Jackson), an old philosopher, claims that all women are fickle and all will be unfaithful if given the chance. A wager follows and Guglielmo and Ferrando pretend to go off to war, only to return in disguise to woo the sisters as part of the wager.
Despina (Brittany Simmons), a chambermaid to the ladies, is bribed by Don Alfonso to help him win the bet. She encourages the ladies to give in to the two amorous, lovesick Albanians who have suddenly appeared; they are really Guglielmo and Ferrando in colorful disguise, each with striped trousers, a red fez, and a handlebar moustache.
Much of the opera revolves around this courtship as the ladies attempt to rebuke the ultimately irresistible advances of their suitors. It is all in fun, and has a happy ending, which we will let you discover at some future time when you are able to see this delightful opera.
Last year we saw and reviewed UNF’s “The Mikado”, which was a staged concert version. For this opera, UNF went all out with costumes, placing the entire cast in colorful period dress. The two sets, created by Johnny Pettegrew and Andrew Mathews, consisted of an elegant interior with a windowed wall and a landscaped garden.
The music was provided by Denise Wright on piano and Austin Clark on percussion with Dr. Biernacki conducting.
The beautiful score was marvelously performed by the entire cast in what was a very polished and well rehearsed production. Mr. Hayes and Mr. Rothman displayed interesting physicality as the Albanian pair, with their dancing and rolling around the stage.
Completing this excellent cast, who, as listed in the playbill, provided a lively chorus of soldiers and townspeople, were: Cali Procter, Thomas Janson, Matheus Coura, John Campbell, Justin Walker, Shaun Adams, Mario Almonte III, Hannah Davenport, Cali Geiger, Abigail Coker, and Jen Cialfi.
Thanks once again to Dr. Biernacki, Associate Professor/Head of Voice and Opera at UNF, for providing students with performance opportunities, while providing the audience with a delightful and entertaining operatic evening highlighted by outstanding performances.