* Notes *
San Francisco Conservatory of Music's spring opera this year is Così fan tutte (Sergio González, Kate Allen, Julie Adams, and Efraín Solís pictured left in Act I, photograph by Betsy Kershner), which opened at Cowell Theater last night. The orchestra was lead by the resident conductor of San Francisco Opera, Giuseppe Finzi, who kept the students together despite the challenges of the space. The tempi were rapid, perhaps even somewhat rushed, but the playing approached a certain crispness not usually heard in Cowell, as the pit is not ideal.
The singers were all quite game, acting and singing with exuberance. Randall Bunnell (Don Alfonso) sounded light and fresh. Sergio González may have sung the role of Ferrando rather gingerly at times, but made it all the way through the piece without a problem. Efraín Solís sang Guglielmo with richness and volume. Julie Adams (Fiordiligi) has lovely high notes, though her low ones lack the same pleasant resonances. Kate Allen (Dorabella) has a strong, pretty voice. Soprano Maya Kherani was a charming, engaging Despina, and really hammed it up as the Doctor and the Notary.
The production, directed by Heather Mathews, is frothy and silly. Perhaps this is most appropriate for students, but it did not leave much room for the characters to develop. The set involves various arches, pillars, and such that could be turned around or pulled here and there to change the scenes. There were a lot of whimsical details, such as apparent trios of winged jelly donuts atop each of the two arches. The choreography was similarly cute. The chorus did have some trouble marching on beat for "Bella vita militar," but otherwise the movements and gestures all read well.
* Tattling *
There was some sort of frilly painted piece of wood at the beginning of Act II, Scene 1 that I was not able to make sense of, at first it seemed like a bed, but then Despina walked behind it. Perhaps it was a bathtub? In any case, I didn't understand why Fiordiligi and Dorabella would be wearing shoes in either a bed or a bathtub.