#8 Cosi fan tutte

This is my first time back to a theatre since Panic at the Opera. My ebullient cousin Rachel, as supportive as ever, is here to help me back on the opera horse. I’m thankful and I’m having fun, but showing gratitude and needing help remains uncomfortably humbling…

I prefer to be the helper.

I’m front row and Ferrando stands so close I could stomp right onto his gleaming white shoe. He deserves at least this much for his deception against the ladies! He is singing a duet with Guglielmo who is now also towering over me. The spittle, the invasion of space, the immediacy of live theatre.

It’s…

wonderful.

The overture of Cosi opens with an exclamation that straightens my posture then just as quickly relaxes into a pastural melody fit for a morning picnic, and just when I’m ready to put a strawberry to my lips, the brass and tempo pick up again, till like a swarm of bees in a sun shower all the instruments stand up loudly and run in all possible directions.

Mozart’s overtures are often a ripe opportunity for a director to get creative, and they often do.

This production begins with a sophisticated ape lounging on a sofa. It gets pretty trippy at times with projected clip art and videos, but the director Roy Rallo knows the audience here, and sends a ripple of thrill through the crowd when the characters pull out a box of Portland’s iconic pink voodoo donuts.

I normally don’t like when operas are overly produced and overshadow the music, but Cosi is an older opera that includes several sections of recitative (dialogue that is sung, but not accompanied by the full orchestra). Recitative can really slow things down and lose a contemporary audience. A good production can lift these recitative sections and help keep the audience involved.

A willing suspension of disbelief might be necessary to enjoy the romp ahead, but Mozart’s gorgeous music and emotional depth makes it easy to accept da Pontes plot device. Do these women really not recognize their boyfriends behind a change of clothes and fake mustaches?

This is a fantastic ridiculous comedy with glorious music. Not all of it has aged well, but it is a fiction people and one that should be heard.

So what is Cosi Fan Tutte all about? Guglielmo and Ferrando are in love with Dorabella and Fiordiligi and convinced that love is faithfully returned, at least they are until Don Alfonso plants the seed of doubt in the men that women can’t be trusted. He convinces the men to test the women’s fidelity. The two men tell the girls they are going off to war, then come back disguised as two Albanians wearing big ‘masculine’ mustaches. Don Alfonso elicits a wonderfully fun Despina to help him win the wager by talking the Albanians up to the two girls. Will the girls be faithful and prove Alfonso wrong, or fail for the Albanians and prove him right? The title doesn’t leave us with much confidence as Cosi fan tutte routinely translates as, ‘women are like that.’

Notes on the production

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Composer……………..……. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Ferrando……………………… Aaron Short

Guglielmo…………………….. Ryan Thorn

Don Alfonso……………..….. Daniel Mobbs

Fiordiligi………………………. Antonia Tamer

Dorabella……………….…….. Kate Farrar

Despina…………………..…… Mary Dunleavy

Conductor…………………… Nicholas Fox

Portland Opera

7/22/2017