Music review: Opera Saratoga shines in updated Mozart classic

Opera Saratoga's production of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte," which opened Thursday night at the Spa Lit

Opera Saratoga’s production of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” which opened Thursday night at the Spa Little Theatre, sprang across the footlights with a vitality and mirth that left the large crowd wanting more.

Everything about the two-act opera was superlative, from its fabulous singing to the singers’ abilities to capture the audience’s attention.

A good portion of this success went to director David Lefkowich’s decision to update the drama from 1790s Vienna to 21st century America. With a timeless story and Mozart’s genius, he couldn’t go wrong — although if he hadn’t been so judicious with his changes, he might have been in trouble.

Some of the pranks were a little over the top, but the crowd seemed to enjoy their outrageousness. Although Lefkowich had fun — as probably the singers did, too — he never allowed the pratfalls to overwhelm the music or the plot. Even the updating of the dialogue was suitable and sometimes very funny.

What helped all this was that David Alan Miller, the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s music director, was at the helm. From the overture’s brisk and vibrant tempo, Miller kept the pace moving. Not a second of the action was allowed to linger, and no singer was given time to dwell, yet he allowed some of the more tender arias to flow with their own gentle pace.

The singers were a formidable lot. The six leads worked well together and blended beautifully, especially soprano Valentina Fleer as Fiordiligi and mezzo soprano Adriana Zabala as Dorabella. Their frequent duets in close harmony were a thing of beauty.

The two guys, tenor Jorge Garza as Ferrando and baritone Andrew Garland as Guglielmo, sang with passion and obviously enjoyed the chance to strut and swagger as “wild and crazy guys,” as one of them dubbed themselves. Baritone John Stephens as the conniving Don Alfonso and soprano Kathryn Cowdrick as the maid Despina only added to the fun. Even the chorus did well.

Lefkowich blocked the action with care and made sure each singer had a handle on their character. Consequently, the audience could discern individuals on stage who acted naturally, rather than shallow projections.

As part of the updating, a piano instead of a harpsichord or fortepiano was added stage right, played by Kirk Severtson, who supplied the recitative support and some humorous responses to the singers.

The opera was sung in Italian, but the English supertitles were cogent and coherent. Garett Wilson’s set and Jared Klein’s lighting were appropriate. Alan Michael Smith’s costumes were choice. Lefkowich made sure all eyes took in the modernization and all ears were on the music.

Additional performances of “Cosi fan tutte” are scheduled for Sunday, Wednesday and July 9.

Categories: Entertainment

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