On Stage: Cosi fan tutte

So I’m sitting on the couch watching the season premiere of Futurama when The Wife comes to me and she says,

“Guess where we’re going tonight.”

“Oh no. These conversations never end well for me.”

“That’s right. We’re going to the opera!”

“Are you time traveling? Because I’m pretty sure we had this conversation a few weeks ago.”

“No, that was for Carmen. Tonight we’re seeing Cosi fan tutte. It’s by Mozart! And Sunday we’re going to the Riverside Shakespeare Theatre Company production of As You Like It!”

“Did I die and go to Culture Hell? Two operas and two Shakespeare plays in the span of two months? Plus all that musical theater thanks to The Muny? Here’s an idea, how about we compromise?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Let’s go see The Avengers.”

“How is that a compromise?”

“Oh, I dunno. We do one thing I want to do for every five things you want to do? Wait. That’s a pretty crappy compromise.”

“I am letting you go to the New Town Reggae Jam in that ridiculous Spider Mon T-shirt.”

“Everybody loves Spider Mon! It’s not my fault that you’re the only person who hates Spider Mon!”

“Whatever. Life isn’t fair. Now go put on your suit.”

“Women are all like that.”

And so it was that The Wife and I made yet another sojourn to the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis production of Cosi fan tutte — music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, first performed in 1790. Sadly, it was never referenced by Gilligan’s Island.

Cosi fan tutte is what common folk like me expect from opera: Three hours of people singing in a fashion best described as cats wailing (OK, “best described” by people who are not opera fans). Fortunately I’ve now had two previous operas to prepare me for this, so I’ve gotten use to the style. I appreciate the skill and vocal chops required to sing opera, and the cast of Cosi were excellent at it. But it’s definitely an acquired taste. But then, so is new country.

As to the story, Cosi fan tutte is a romantic comedy. Ah yes, my two favorite things — opera and romantic comedy. Set in 18th century Naples, it is the story of two soldiers — Ferrando (David Portillo) and Guglielmo (Liam Bonner) — engaged to two sisters — Fiordiligi (Rachel Willis-Sorensen) and Dorabella (Kathryn Leemhuis). (For the record, that is the last time I will be spelling any of those names).

Ferr and Gug are deliriously in love with Fio and Dora. The boys’ mentor, Don Alfonso (James Maddalena), is convinced all women are evil and unfaithful and wants to teach his charges a lesson. He has Ferr and Gug pretend that they are going off to war, and then they return in disguise to woo Fio and Dora. Assisting with this deception is the ladies’ maid, Despina (Jennifer Aylmer).

While both ladies resist temptation at first, Dora eventually succumbs. Fio holds out longer but she, too, eventually gives in. I’m wondering how they’re going to resolve all this and they do so in typical, infuriating, romantic comedy fashion. The men are naturally upset that their lovers betrayed them, but then Don — after masterminding the whole thing — tells the boys, hey, you should marry them anyway because all women are like that. And they do.

Not only do the men agree to marry the women who just cheated on them, but the women agree to marry the men who just perpetrated this horrible hoax on them (although Fio does appear to break away from the group at the last second, so it’s not all that cut-and-dried in this production). I used to think Julia Roberts was responsible for the stupidity of romantic comedies, but now I see it’s endemic to the whole genre.  Or it’s been that way since at least 1790.

At any rate, The Wife loved it and that’s all that matters. Despite my problems with the story, the show was a first-rate production all the way. The set design was clever, the costumes were colorful, the music was delightful and the cast was terrific — especially Rachel Willis-Sorensen.

Normally at this point I link you to OTSL’s website and tell you the show’s still playing, but last night was the final performance of Cosi, so no point in doing that.

 

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