Dates and Venue Friday, November 30, Saturday, December 1, Friday, December 7 and Saturday, December 8, all performances @ 7:30 pm | Marpole United Church, 1296 West 67th Ave. Vancouver
Music Director Ian Dives Director Robin Hahn Lighting designer Sara Smith Costume Designer Stephanie Ko
Cast (December 1): Fiordiligi
Kathryn Nickford Dorabella Melissa Ratcliff
Ferrando Lyndon Ladeur Guglielmo
Cameron Killick Despina Katrina Goh
Don Alfonso Alexander Adams-Leytes
In Italian with English surtitles
Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson
Naples Beach, where we might all like to go for a little fun in these darkening days, seems nevertheless unlikely as a setting for Mozart’s elegant, 18th century lampoon of idealized love. Yet that is where Opera Mariposa has decided to set Cosi fan tutte, and clearly young love has blossomed between the thatched bar and a pair of lounge chairs. In the bar, Gugliemo (Cameron Killick) and Ferrando (Lyndon Ladeur) proclaim the everlasting virtue of their marvellous girlfriends while poolside Dorabella (the honey-voiced Melissa Ratcliff) and Fiordiligi (Kathryn Nickford in sparkling form) rhapsodise over their lovers’ photos - on their cell phones. The little modern touches inserted into the staging are effective and fun.
Mozart’s shimmering, ambivalent opera inhabits the world of Sense and Sensibility, even Tom Jones and of 18th century sociological enquiry. It repelled Beethoven, creator of the steadfast Fidelio and shocked the Victorians. Embraced by the swinging 60’s for its sexual frankness, it is again raising eyebrows for its misogynistic attitudes - though if it were known by the alternative title “School for Lovers” it might be more clearly seen as an opera in which both sexes have a lot to learn about behaviour toward the other. “Do not troll your girlfriend” might be one of the lessons. Mariposa takes this more even-handed approach with over-the-top shenanigans and glorious voices. For who could fail to be seduced by Mozart’s most glorious music?
It must be said that Cosi is an odd mixture of silliness and underlying depth. To test their girl-friends’ loyalty, and to win a bet with “Mr. Don Alfonso” (Alexander Adams-Leytes) the young men dress up as just-enlisted Coast Guards (Mariposa takes a few minor liberties with the text) and tell the girls they are off to sea. Expressions of mutual despair ensue and the chaps sail away in a charmingly idiotic boat - kudos to Mariposa’s props department. And then, the cynical Don Alfonso and the two superficial young women wish for calm seas and gentle winds in one of Mozart’s most affecting moments “Soave sia il vento” (O gently-blowing wind) was sung with serious musical sensitivity by Alexander Adams-Leytes (Don Alfonso), Kathryn Nickford and Melissa Ratcliff.
In fact there was wonderful singing from the entire cast. Ratcliff shone as Dorabella. The extravagance of grief in “Smanie implacabili”, when she complains passionately that she will die without Ferrando, was beautifully phrased, her quick ” Io già decisi.” (I have already chosen) was a gem of comic timing, and in her love duet with her sister’s disguised boyfriend, Gugliemo, “Il core vi dono” she succumbed voluptuously and comically to her new lover.
Kathryn Nickford nailed Fiordiligi, more restrained than Dorabella at first (“Come scoglio” (Like a rock) and then more genuinely passionate ("Per pieta") and also more vulnerable. She soared through the technical difficulties with agility, floating the long lines with airy ease.
Cameron Killick was amusing as the cocky Gugliemo who can step back to look at what he is doing. He seduces Dorabella with the very suggestive “Il core vi dono” duet even while lamenting his friend’s loss.
Ferrando is the more serious lover, romantic to the core. While Gugliemo wants dinner, Ferrando can live on air "Un’ aura amorosa.” With a mellifluous tenor, velvet phrasing, an earnest demeanour and technical mastery more than capable of doing justice to Mozart, Lyndon Ladeur gave a sensitive and moving performance.
A sly glance, gleeful enjoyment in the game and a big buffo voice, Alexander Adams-Leytes sparkled as the cynical puppet-master / mentor Don Alfonso.
With such talent on stage it would be invidious to single anyone out, and yet, Katrina Goh, seemed to have such enjoyment as Despina she frequently stole the show. Somewhat of a stock character, the clever servant, Despina shows a knowing survivor’s personality. Mozart joyfully showcases her chameleon ability as fake Doctor and pseudo- Lawyer. Goh indulged them both and added her own strengths in the recitative “Che vita maledetta” In which she complains that she is always the one making the coffee and never the one drinking it. The repeat section was far from the carping tones of the first verse and exposed the deeper feelings of the servant’s lot.
Excellent, even audacious, costuming from Stephanie Ko - you’ll likely never see Cosi fan tutte dressed in swim suits again - tidy lighting and an elegant chorus make this a sophisticated, artful and highly musical production. None of which could be carried out without Robin Hahn’s lively direction, Ian Dives’ thorough musical direction and Ryan Goetz’s herculean command of all of Mozart’s notes on the piano.
© 2018 Elizabeth Paterson