* Notes *
The Merola Opera Program's production of Così fan tutte opened at the Cowell Theater last Friday. The singing was fine, though mezzo-soprano Caitlin Mathes stood out as Despina, her voice was almost too sweet for that comic role. She was very funny when pretending to be a notary, affecting an outrageous accent. For the most part her timing was good, though she missed a beat cuing a drum roll. Lara Ciekiewicz did well as Fiordiligi, though her voice has metallic edge to it. Her Act I aria, "Come scoglio" was robust, albeit somewhat brassy. Ellie Jarrett was a perfectly silly Dorabella, with a bit of strain in her upper range, but a delicate, pretty sound. Alex Mansoori likewise labored for some of the higher notes, but has a lovely, tasteful restraint. For the most part, John Chest sounded more secure as Guglielmo. Benjamin LeClair seemed very exposed as Don Alfonso, somehow he was not quite on, especially in the beginning, though his voice is gorgeous. The trezetto "E la fede delle femmine" with LeClair, Mansoori, and Chest was poor. The singing did improve, and the ensemble at the end was delightful. The off-stage chorus was not exactly with the orchestra, but did sing with a great deal of spirit.
As for Robin Guarino's production, it was stuffed to the gills with ideas at first and seemed to peter out during Act II, which was essentially quite traditional. The trajectory here was not entirely clear. It was almost as if since Così is rather ungallant, we were to be distracted as much as possible with utter silliness. For instance, Guglielmo did a bunch of push-ups, Ferrando broke pencils, and there were a lot of women's shoes thrown around at one point. I was amused, but also confounded, particularly by the conceit that the main characters were actors in a play, with Don Alfonso as the director, and Despina as a stage manager.
Under Ari Pelto, the orchestra was often not together, and one can only conclude that the shape and placement of the "pit" is not condusive to synchronization. There were some brass problems, and the violins were ahead at times. The playing was better for this than last year's Don Giovanni, there were no solos that were embarrassing, for instance. Keun-a Lee did play the harpsichord very confidently and well.
* Tattling *
Again, the seagulls were audible during the less noisy parts of the music. The audience was more or less quiet and attentive.