Bubbly Così Delights
Brown Theater, Wortham Center
10/31/2014 - & November 2*, 8, 13, 15, 2014
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Così fan tutte, K. 588
Norman Reinhardt (Ferrando), Jacques Imbrailo (Guglielmo), Alessandro Corbelli (Don Alfonso), Rachel Willis-Sørensen (Fiordiligi), Melody Moore (Dorabella), Nuccia Focile (Despina)
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Patrick Summers (Conductor)
Harry Silverstein (Director), Carl Friedrich Oberle (Set and Costume Designer), Duane Schuler (Lighting Designer)
R. Willis-Sørensen, M. Moore (© Lynn Lane)
Così fan tutte and Verdi's Otello, which are running concurrently at Houston Grand Opera, address infidelity and jealousy in very different ways, with startlingly disparate outcomes. The balance of light and dark presented by the two operas makes them a great pairing and, hearing the charming and bubbly performance of Mozart's comedy first, one is eager to compare it with Verdi's tragedy.
As always, HGO has assembled an excellent cast for this ensemble-heavy opera. The women are especially strong. Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Melody Moore are an ideal pairing as Fiordiligi and Dorabella. Their voices blend wonderfully when singing together, and their telekinetically linked subtle shifts in tempo and dynamics during recitatives is uncanny. In solo passages, Willis-Sørensen's light easy voice comes into wonderful contrast with Moore's richer soprano.
Norman Reinhardt replaced an ailing Stephen Costello as Ferrando, and is singing Cassio in Otello. His voice suits both roles, but there was a slight strain in the upper register, and one hopes that he made a wise choice doubling up during this run. By contrast, Jacques Imbrailo brings strength and hilarious slapstick acting to a satisfying, thorough rendition of Guglielmo.
While the quartet of leads is entirely satisfying, it is the two comic foils that give the most enjoyment to the audience. Nuccia Focile steals her every scene. Her native Italian permits subtleties in diction that free her to be deliciously brash and wiser than the aristocrats, and her "In uomini" was a highlight of the evening. The playbill indicates her last appearance at HGO in 1991, and we hope it won't be another 23 years before she returns. Similarly, Alessandro Corbelli's Don Alfonso is a pleasure to watch and hear, paralleling the great "character actors" in the film world. His witty repartees are delivered with perfect timing.
Both the visual production and Patrick Summers' overall perspective on the piece are lean and efficient. From the downbeat of the overture, there was a forward push to the music that was exciting, but risked becoming overly urgent. The coordination of orchestra, chorus and soloists throughout was expert. The sets are mostly framing devices, but they allowed the cast plenty of room to maneuver and avail themselves of the delightful comic direction devised by Harry Silverstein, much more satisfying than in his recent Don Giovanni with the company.
Marcus Karl Maroney