Review | Cosi Fan Tutte: buffa with a twist

Mill City Summer Opera

Sidney Otlaw, Karin Wolverton, Laura Larsen, Javier Abreu and Andrew Wilkowske in COSI FAN TUTTE. Photo by Dan Norman.

To say Cosi Fan Tutte, one of Mozart’s classic opera buffas, is problematic, is an understatement. The very title, which loosely translates to “women are like that” gives you an idea of the dated and cliché subject matter. Yet, with its lush score, it’s one of Mozart’s most celebrated works, which is why it continues to enjoy prominence on the stage today.

The Mill City Summer Opera’s rendition of Cosi brings a sense of modern awareness to the show while never straying far from the libretto. Director Crystal Manich manages to deliver a surprisingly modern twist at the end, and with it, a saving grace for an otherwise unremarkable opera. The play opens with chorus members cheering the homecoming of a group of soldiers, among them are our two romantic leads, Guglielmo played by Sidney Outlaw and Ferrando, played by Javier Abreu. These two sing about their lovers, Fiordiligi, played by Karin Wolverton, and her sister Dorabella, played by Sarah Larsen, and their unwavering loyalty and fidelity. This leads to a bet devised by the two men’s older and wiser friend, Don Alfonso played by Andre Wilkowske, to trick the sisters and prove their as inconstant as all women. Larsen and Wolverton play a perfect pair of sisters, and their voices are so effortlessly in sync, sometimes it’s hard to tell where Larsen’s robust mezzo starts, and Woleverton’s clear soprano ends.

No Cosi is complete without a stellar Despina, and in this production she is played by Heather Johnson. Despina is the witty confidant to the sisters, and she helps the pair live a little boldly and take matters of the heart a little more lightly.

Andre Wilkowske should also be likewise commended for subtle comedic flair. As the puppet master holding all the cards, Wilkowske never played the role with too much bravado or camp, but there was never a dull moment with his character, even when he wasn’t in the spotlight.

The venue will transport you to another world, and then firmly bring you back to 2019 as a plane or two, or three flies overhead during the show. But the planes and traffic noise never ruin the show.

The ruins are beautiful and serve as a great backdrop for the setting. There is nothing quite like seeing opera live under the stars and with the Mill City Museum Courtyard, you get just that. With the surprise twist at the end, the beautiful accompanying orchestra, the rich vocal talents of the cast, I think you’ll find Cosi is worth a night out.

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