Review: Cosi fan tutte (U of T Faculty of Music)

University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music stages professional calibre opera

The University of Toronto Faculty of Music’s production of Così fan tutte by W.A. Mozart was of exceptionally high calibre. Throughout most of the production I was completely able to forget that I was watching students under the age of 30. This high calibre was unsurprising since the U of T’s music program is widely recognized to be one of the most competitive programs to be admitted to in Canada.

Così fan tutte, Mozart’s final collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte is a charming, frothy romp in classic opera buffa style. The title translates roughly to “They are all this way” and is about the fickle nature of women’s affections. If you can get past the 18th century attitude towards gender, it is highly engaging, cute and funny.

For largely biological reasons, younger voices inevitably lack the power and depth of more mature singers. All of the singers in this production will be forces to be reckoned with when they come into their prime.

Andrew Haji as Ferrando has a divinely beautiful tenor instrument. His sound is sweet, pure and powerful with remarkable control and consistency for a singer his age. The sensitivity of his sound commands pathos for his character. Once he has refined his dramatic abilities a bit more, he will be unstoppable.

Eliza Johnson was hilarious in the role of Despina. Her fresh, slightly edgy, light soprano voice was ideal for the lyrical aspect of the role. And what would an 18th century opera buffa be without a bit of cross dressing? Despina has the opportunity to play two male characters in this show. Ms. Johnson demonstrated herself to be a fine character actress and took full advantage of the opportunity to do some comedic voice work.

My companion, who was a first time opera goer, was most engaged by her dramatically. The coquettish chamber maid who acts as an agent provocateur to the two would be virtuous ladies, gets many of the funniest lines in this work. She is very apt to steal the show and Ms. Johnson did not miss this opportunity.

Rosanna Murphy, as the virtuous Fiordiligi had truly impressive agility and power. The role requires significant agility but I would be pleased to hear this singer in a role that requires more substantial coloratura singing since I felt the florid passages were where her talent shone the most. Alexandra Beley was also quite charming in the role of Dorabella. Her voice is lovely and my companion was very impressed with her acting ability.

The orchestra, comprised of students in the instrumental program at the university, did a great job of capturing the pomp and silliness of the score. I thought the interpretation of the overture was excellent, although it might have been nice had there been some sort of action on the stage during the overture, especially since the curtain was up and we were already looking at the set.

There were a few moments where the orchestra and the singers were not totally together at the start of numbers. The issues were minor and didn’t really detract from the overall effect of the piece. These issues could likely have been ironed out with a few more music rehearsals with the orchestra. The conductor, Miah Im, did a great job of holding the cast and orchestra together and interpreting the music.

The set and costumes also demonstrated very high standards. I especially enjoyed the gondola used in the second act to bring Guglielmo and Ferrando in for their serenade of the ladies. My companion thought the costume designers did a great job of transforming Guglielmo and Ferrando into two suitors from a distant land. To settle a bet, the gentlemen are trying to see if their fiancées will be unfaithful in their absence if they are tempted by two dashing mystery men.

Così fan Tutte is a great show for an opera novice and seeing a U of T production is great idea. The audience is getting near professional quality for a fraction of the cost. My companion was highly entertained and stated he would love to see more opera in future.

Details:
– Così fan tutte is playing at MacMillan Theatre (Edward Johnson Building, U of T, 80 Queen’s Park) until March 11, 2012
– Shows run Thursday, March 8 to Saturday, March 10 at 7:30 pm, with an additional matinee on Sunday, March 11 at 2:30 pm
– Tickets prices are $30, $20 for seniors/students, FlexiMIX package for $24
– Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-408-0208

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