PSU's production of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutti" sparkled with wit and elan, making opening night (Friday, April 27th) a thoroughly enjoyable experience. A strong cast of young, agile singers captured the spirit of this opera buffa with excellent comedic timing, and the audience, a full house, ate up the antics and the beautiful singing with gusto.
Soprano Allison Armerding created a passionate Fiordiligi with a thrilling voice and natural acting ability. It's hard to believe that this was her first appearance in an operatic role. As Fiordiligi's sister Dorobella, Anna Viemeister sang with conviction and a warm, rich tone that she maintained throughout - even when she was doing all of the work on the teeter-totter.
In the role of young officers who are in love with the two noblewomen, both baritone Sojourn Breneiser and tenor Wesley Rogers were terrific. Rogers did an outstanding job with the difficult, soul searching aria "Un aura amorosa" in which he has to reveal his hatred and love for Dorabella.
Bass Jim Rose settled into the role of the old philospher Don Alfonso with a wink and a nod. Soprano Dresden Merz, as the ladies' chambermaid, Despina, added a lot of mirth, but her voice needed to be a little stronger to be heard over the orchestra.
Tito Capobianco provided superb stage directions for the cast, which added clarity and hilarity to the story. Excellent set design by Carey Wong used rear projections of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius in a way that reflected the mood of the characters. For example, when two lovers would kiss, the volcano would erupt. And the lighting by Jeff Forbes enhanced the production.
Conductor Ken Selden led the orchestra with judicious pacing. The orchestra experienced a multitude of problems with intonation, but the music never flagged. This made it easier for the singers to negotiate all of the tricky passages and kept the audience engaged. Kudos also to the exquisite harpsichord playing of Douglas Carl Schneider.
(Note: a reader commented that I mentioned the wrong aria for Rogers, so I've corrected it.)