Saturday, March 1, 2014

SLO's 'Cosi fan Tutte' in Review


It was an absolutely delightful presentation of Mozart's comedy of mistaken identities, one of the company's most successful productions, displaying excellent music making and ensemble acting. Director Tom Hawkes and conductor Joshua Kangming Tan ran a tight ship that held dramatic tension high, so that one number segued effortlessly into the next as if it were a through-composed piece. Not even for celebrated numbers did the action stop for the performers to bask in applause. Hawke's direction was detailed enough that it kept the action going without distracting the performers, while Tan's generally brisk tempi and clear textures, coupled with excellent harpsichord playing from Shane Thio in the recitatives, kept the music lively and interesting. The cast shared great chemistry, interacting like a genuine ensemble.



After curtains opened, we are led into the lobby of a luxury hotel in colonial times, laid out with rattan furniture and where multi-piece Western suits style comfortably with Peranakan attire. Of the cast, Rachelle Gerodias had a great success as Fiordiligi. The voice has grown somewhat bigger since I heard her as Susanna and Liu, but whereas one would associate the role with fuller, weightier voices (her celebrated aria is about being hard as a rock after all), Gerodias manages to sing all the notes in this wide-ranging role in a well supported and projected manner, including the many exposed low notes, without compromising on her physical acting. While she does seem tentative in many places and proceeds with a sense of caution, she is generally fine once you are attuned to her lighter tone colour and serves up a great dramatic portryal of the role.

Poor Raffaele d’Ascanio... He sounded a tad underpowered in the ensembles right from the start, and when the unforgiving Un aura amorosa came along, we can see why: a bad hoarseness in tone colour showed what is clearly a haze-related illness. Yes those damn Indonesians are even screwing up our opera!!! Nonetheless, d’Ascanio made the best use of what resources he has, his warm lyric tenor dealing well with Mozart's musical idiom while maintaining a Mediterranean operatic quality, and played the dashing leading man with boyish charm. Here's hoping that the voice will recover for the rest of the run. Someone buy him a large bottle of Pei Pa Kao right NOW!

Du Qin's Dorabella was every bit the petulent teenager that one would expect, her slim figure and playful manner suited the character well, as was her cameradere with Rachelle. She started the evening with an unchararistically wide vibrato and some unindiomatic phrasing or enunciation of the text, but settled into the flow of things as the night progressed. Park Byeong-In lent a robust baritone to the show and did a fine job with Guglielmo, with no perceptible faults musically nor dramatically, being committed to great ensemble work shared among the cast.

David Hibbard's booming bass is a pleasure to hear, and one looks forward to hearing him in more substantial music. He played Don Alfonso with a cynical touch, world-weary with not just a hint of bitterness, looking happiest as he educates his young charges on the less than perfect ways of the world. Having sung iconic roles such as Manon Lescaut and Donna Elvira in previous SLO outings, Ee-Ping lives up to the adage that there are no small roles, milking the role of the disgrunted maid Despina for comedic effect.

An interesting twist to the story is that the disguised lovers start their seduction with their original fiances instead of each others', a touch that only made them realised their fiance's weaknesses as described by their elder teacher all the more right from the start. The ending is unconventional and will give seasoned listeners of this opera a surprise. Check out this production before it ends this coming Monday 3 March 2014, I'm sure you won't regret it.

SLO's Cosi fan tutte has one more show on 3 March 2014 (Monday). Get your tickets at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/cosifan0314.

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