Although the opera “Così fan tutte” was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the late 1700s, the College-Conservatory of Music’s MainStage production of the opera still manages to capture a modern-day audience’s attention.
The production played Thursday night to an amused and awe-filled audience. Director Robin Guarino’s decision to take the story into the far-out ’60s certainly helped with the culture barriers.
From the skills of the actors and actresses to the magnificent set, which featured a fully functional hot tub, doctors dressing in drag and Beatles references galore, it was easy to forget everything was in Italian (of course translations on title cards didn’t hurt either).
The show began with a house party, and the house actually rotated around the stage, absolutely mesmerizing the audiences. It was almost like a movie rather than a stage production because of the constantly changing scenery and movement.
The story of Fiordiligi (Ann Toomey/Jessica Faselt) and Dorabella (Adria Caffaro/Elenia Antonia Franck), two sisters, and their respective lovers Guglielmo (Joseph Lattanzi/Simon Barrad) and Ferrando (Alec Carlson/Chris Bozeka) unraveled on the stage.
Ferrando’s and Guglielmo’s best friend Don Alfonso (Derrel Acon/Tyler Alessi) makes a bet with the boys that their loves would cheat on them given the opportunity. Secure in their girls’ fidelity, the two agree to take the bet.
The boys pretend to be drafted into the Navy and leave their girls, only to return the next day in disguises akin to the Beatles stepping off of the Magical Mystery Tour album in real life.
The housemaid Despina (Grace Kahl/Jasmine Habersham) agrees to help Don Alfonso, and the two boys make a hysterical pairing as they try to set the girls up with the “strangers.” Hijinks ensue.
While the job of connecting with the audience is always a difficult one, that task is nearly doubled in difficultly when everything is in a completely different language.
Thankfully, this cast not only lived up to expectations, but also exceeded them. Each member of the cast had his or her own charm that was endearing to watch and easy to love.
Toomey’s performance as Fiordiligi stood out. Not only were her vocals stunning, her range large and powerful, but her acting was also completely charming, as she could convey a wide variety of emotions throughout her songs.
Her facial expressions throughout the performance were over-the-top in the best possible way, and her comic timing was impeccable.
One moment that had the audience in stitches was actually a well-played-out accident. A distraught Toomey was stuffing herself with ice cream when a large chunk fell out and onto the floor.
Instead of leaving it, or stuffing it back in the container, she ravenously consumed it. Such a simple action left many in guffaws simply because of her ability to connect with the audience.
Toomey wasn’t the only one with wonderful facial expressions; Adria Caffaro as Dorabella captured hearts as well with her own silly faces, not to mention a powerhouse of a voice.
Joseph Lattanzi and Alec Carlson worked delightfully together. Lattanzi had sweet vocals and touching moments in his acting. Carlson was hysterical, and his charisma was palpable. The two worked off of each other well.
Another vastly amusing pair was the schemers Despina and Don Alfonso, played by Grace Kahl and Derrel Acon.
Kahl was the first actress to hit the stage, as she danced to her cassette, and she remained adorable and funny throughout the show. It takes real talent to sing operatic Italian in a New Jersey accent, as she did whilst in disguise as a marriage licenser.
Acon and Kahl played an integral part in one of the silliest scenes in the show. They were dressed in drag as doctors who tried to “cure” the boys after they drank “poison” in despair — a scene that will most certainly be remembered.
Between the quirky ’60s aesthetic, astounding, professional vocals and comedic acting shown by the leads and ensemble, this performance of “Così fan tutte” will surely live on as a CCM great.