By Charlotte Dutton
Only twice a year do we get to see and hear proof of the talent, professionalism, poise and dedication of Oberlin’s large contingent of vocalists. This semester, the Oberlin Opera Theater presented Mozart’s comedic Cosi fan Tutte.
Cosi fan Tutte tells a story of love and deception and, like many operas, its story is convoluted, confusing and utterly ridiculous, though to see an opera for its plot would be like reading a romance for its deep, emotional content. The sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, who believe their lovers Ferrando and Guglielmo are called away to battle, are persuaded by their maid Despina and friend Don Alfonso to flirt with other men. Their boyfriends then dress as Albanians and try to woo the other man’s girlfriend. All almost ends in disaster but amends are made and their wedding date is set. The comedic roles of Despina and Don Alfonso further cushion the already silly plot with frivolous laughter, tricks and debauchery.
Mozart’s musical setting can be almost as funny as the plot itself. In one rather uncomfortable scene when each woman is on a date with her sister’s boyfriend, a too-slow arpeggio in the harpsichord, which takes forever to finally reach the top of its peak, heightens the level of discomfort. It then immediately goes to the bottom and begins its slow and lengthy ascent again. The sense of “come on, do something” is not lost in this scene and the music underlines beautifully its awkward and self-conscious nature.
As Cosi is by Mozart, a composer with ample genius and musical ingenuity, the opera is filled with musical gems left and right and you almost swear that each and every aria is sweeter and more beautiful than those that precede and follow it. Stafford Hartman, Summer Hassan, Cree Carrico, Chad Grossman, Joseph Lattanzi and Gerard Michael D’Emilio all did a wonderful job conveying both the humor of the opera and the beauty of its arias. Carrico (Despina) had also to play a doctor and a priest and although each character was as distinct as if they had been played by different people, Carrico made sure never to compromise the vocal integrity of the arias that she sung.
Where the male leads were ridiculous in their tricks and antics, the women were over the top in their flighty hysteria. In a particularly frenzied aria, Hassan begins to throw chairs around the stage. Hartman sings an impassioned aria describing her love as a stone, and although she seems finished, she belts out, from off-stage, a high note that must have been held for at least 10 minutes and storms onto the stage again. Grossman finds a way to make everything and person on the stage a sexual object, and while Lattanzi is both an incredible actor and musician, I perhaps most enjoyed how much he looked like a pirate.
Such a fun and silly opera could not have come at a better time in the year. This vivacious and energetic cast made sure I laughing continually between the hours of 8:00 and 10:45. Director Jonathan Field and conductor Bridget-Michaele Reischl should be proud.