Saratoga Springs, NY – Cosi van tutte by Mozart is an opera that can be very easily modernized or, likewise, put into any time period of our history; one could argue that it deserves to be tested. The story that Mozart and Da Ponte chose to expose – a present day “wife-swap” – is timeless. It is hard not to connect with the gender flaws that are highlighted in the opera (i.e. lack of faithfulness in relationships from both male and female). This subject resonates with audiences of all ages and due to Cosi’s comedic nature (opera buffa), the opera is a constant favorite. This is evident in Opera Saratoga’s (formerly Lake George Opera) production of Cosi (seen July 6th) which was received a very enthusiastic audience.
The duets, trios, etc in Cosi were by far the most exciting part of the afternoon in Saratoga Springs. All of the voices in the cast melded together seamlessly and allowed Mozart’s soaring melodic lines to take shape in breathtaking ways. Valentina Fleer (Fiordiligi) and Adriana Zabala’s (Dorabella) voices were especially well matched. They sang with great care and exciting abandonment. Fleer did not have the full bodied “Fiordiligi” voice that many opera buffs would be familiar with, but her voice has enough girth, flexibility and ring that cuts through the difficult lines of Come scoglio. The staging of Smanie implacabili required Zabala to be comfortable in a number of generally awkward singing postures, but her performance was flawless. Zabala’s voice is wonderously warm and inviting.
The ladies’ scheming boyfriends, Ferrando and Guglielmo, sung by Jorge Garza and Andrew Garland, were equally talented in their own right. The most entertaining surprise of the afternoon was when the gentlemen took stage in their “A Night at the Roxbury” disguises. Their antics nearly brought the audience to tears of laughter. Garland’s voice is a fine, robust baritone timbre and Garza’s a bright tenor voice, yet cloudy at the top (he seemed under the weather).
If I were to pick my favorite act, the first seemed to go swimmingly. David Lefkowich’s organic direction paired with Mozart’s perfect composition created a canvas in which the singers could have a visceral connection to the characters. As seen on occasion, they ended up choosing a permanent “wife-swap” to conclude the story. John Stephens, as Don Alfonso, anchored the majority of the ensembles with his dusky voice and Kathryn Cowdrick added delightful humor to each situation as the flippant Despina.
Even with the challenges The Spa Little Theater presents as an opera theatre (the conductor and orchestra are behind the performers) it has a wonderful sense of charm and intimacy. What was once a temporary move to the theater for Opera Saratoga, in 1998, has now become an exciting tradition. The company, now with 50 years under its belt, has discovered and cultivated many great singers, directors and conductors of past and present as well as premiered a number of exciting new operas. It’s well worth your time to visit Saratoga and discover what their great opera company cooks up next.
Photos by Gary Gold