Town Times Review: Mozart’s “School For Lovers”

March 14, 2012 No Comments

By LARRY KELLUM, Special for The Town (Middletown) Times

The CT Lyric Opera presents the second production of its 2011-12 season, Mozart’s charming masterpiece “Cosi fan Tutte”, at the state-of-the-art Middletown High School Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 16 at 7:30 pm. As is always the case with this exciting company, their operas always premiere at New Britain’s Trinity on Main, and that March 2 performance is reviewed here.

Composed in 1790, “Cosi” is a classic and classy comedy — in other words, a farce, even a satire, and in the hands of a good stage director (here Eve Summer), is not the silly, 3 Stooges-type slapstick that often creeps into some of the Rossini and Donizetti comedies. “Cosi fan tutte” is an Italian expression, loosely translated, that means “all women are like that” — in other words, fickle and untrustworthy. Yes, it can drag at times (like every Mozart opera), and there are all the complex plot twists and characters in disguise typical of the genre. However, when cleverly cast with dark chocolate (as opposed to milk) voices in certain roles– Daniel Juarez’ beefy tenor as Ferrando, Alexandra Romano’s woodwind mezzo as the maid Despina, Miles Rind’s genuine bass as Alfonso — the very real and human emotions felt in this piece (love and sex, infidelity and betrayal) subtlety come across as more universal and timeless when presented in this manner.

The sextet of principals all sang and acted well and are to be commended for blending so nicely in this ultimate ensemble work where every duet leads to a trio, every trio to a quartet, and so forth. Three of the artists are CLO favorites — Juarez, Romano and baritone Luke Scott — and three were making debuts with the company — Rind and soprano Dana Schnitzer from the Boston area, and mezzo Aleksandra Kaminska, a rising star in Poland. Both being tall, blond and handsome, Ms.Kaminska and Scott each brought Salzburg-worthy, world class vocalism and Hollywood good looks to Dorabella and Guglielmo. Ms. Schnitzer (the other sister Fiordiligi) was also beautiful to behold (remember the ’80’s actress Phoebe Cates?) and her voice soared effortlessly into the upper reaches of this role’s difficult yo-yo tessitura. However, like most lyric sopranos in this part, her emphatic low notes lacked the rock-solid kick-you-in-the-gut thrust of, say, a Marilyn Horne, which is necessary for the runs and octave leaps of a “defiant” aria like “Come scoglio” to hit with full impact. Sets and costumes, all in period, were unusually lovely and refreshing to look at, to top off the evening.

As is also always the case with the CLO, the orchestra of choice was maestro Adrian Sylveen’s CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. Magnificent as his forces have been in Puccini here in the past, they are really in their true element in Mozart, allowing the singers to make it all sound so easy (which it isn’t!) and natural.

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