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The star of Sarasota Opera's 'Cosi Fan Tutte' is the conductor

SARASOTA — Many elements must come together to generate a successful performance of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte. Enough are present in the Sarasota Opera's production to make this a most entertaining evening.

Mozart chose a silly plot about a bet that two sisters would forsake their fiances for strangers because "women are like that." Despite this framework, he and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte created an opera of great musical beauty.

For it to work takes much more than six great singers in the lead roles. As is the case here, voices that individually cannot manage Mozart's musical demands can still combine to provide a fine operatic experience. For that to happen, it is essential that the person holding the baton understand the demands this composer makes, and fulfill them cleanly and accurately.

Conductor Pacien Mazzagatti was the star performer. He impressed immediately with the overture, which was perfectly balanced. The orchestra was a marvel of precision and always seemed to play at the right level to support the antics onstage.

Mozart wrote an impossibly difficult aria for the soprano role of Fiordiligi, Come scoglio. It is known he had a voice in mind that could manage the low notes that are set well into the mezzo range, yet still handle the high B called for. Few humans these days can manage this great aria.

Marie-Adele McArthur is not one of them. She struggled at the bottom, squeaked at the top and lacked fluidity in the triplets. Yet her performance had much of value, especially in the duets with Fiordiligi's sister, Dorabella (sung superbly by mezzo Vanessa Cariddi). The blending of voices was magical.

Of the two male lovers, Sean Anderson's baritone was clear and strong as Guglielmo, and Chad Johnson's tenor was weaker and less capable in singing the ornaments required in Ferrando's arias.

The two comic roles are acted to the nines; director Pat Diamond staged this production for maximum comic effect. Stephen Eisenhard is a fine Don Alfonso. One would wish only that his accurate voice was just a bit stronger so he wouldn't be lost in some of the ensemble numbers. As the maid Despina, Alicia Berneche made the most of her chances and was a delight, even though her soprano sounded pinched and small.

Mozart's wonderful ensemble numbers are sprinkled throughout this opera. The sextet at the end of Act I was one of those moments that worked perfectly. Conductor, orchestra and singers were in perfect synch. The music sparkled and made us forget just how silly this opera is.

Albert H. Cohen can be reached at AHC5347@verizon.net.

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Cosi Fan Tutte

The opera by Mozart is presented by the Sarasota Opera at 1:30 p.m. today , 8 p.m. Wednesday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday. $25-$115. Toll-free 1-888-673-7212, (941) 366-8450; www.sarasotaopera.org.

The star of Sarasota Opera's 'Cosi Fan Tutte' is the conductor 04/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 12:05pm]
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