Così fan tutte, K588 – Opera buffa in two Acts to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte [sung in Italian, with English Supertitles by Christopher Bergen]
Fiordiligi – Hailey Clark
Dorabella – Samantha Hankey
Ferrando – Duke Kim
Guglielmo – Thomas Glass
Don Alfonso – Dennis Jesse
Despina – Madison Leonard
Palm Beach Opera Chorus & Orchestra [continuo: Kenneth Weiss (harpsichord)]
Fenlon Lamb – Director
Robert Perdziola – Scenery & Costume Designer
Ron Wolek – Hair & Makeup Designer
Don Darmutzer – Lighting Designer
Reviewed by: David M. Rice
Reviewed: 24 February, 2023
Venue: Dreyfoos Concert Hall, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach Opera assembled an outstanding cast, including four recent Metropolitan Opera Grand Finals winners, for this marvelous production of Così fan tutte. The younger singers are anchored by Dennis Jesse, a veteran of American regional opera, who is a standout as Don Alfonso, convincingly clever as he engineers the machinations of the plot, beginning with his visual introduction of the characters during the overture. He contributes a strong baritone voice, but modulates it subtly when underpinning the higher voices, notably in the delicate Act One trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ with Hailey Clark and Samantha Hankey as the just-abandoned Fiordiligi and Dorabella. The sisters’ voices blend gorgeously there, as in their earlier duet ‘Ah guarda sorella’, and both are powerful in their respective arias, including Clark’s ‘Come scoglio’ in Act One and Hankey’s ‘È amore un ladroncello’ in Act Two.
Duke Kim sings Ferrando with a thrilling tenor voice, and Thomas Glass is a solid baritone as Guglielmo. They both show prodigious talent for physical comedy as they cavort together in costumes that effectively conceal their identities in a half-hearted, but ultimately successful, effort to entrap their lovers. They effectively depict the changes in their relationship that are driven by the twists and turn of the evolving plot, ranging from friendly rivalry to shared hilarity, with some resentment and bitterness creeping in at the end.
Madison Leonard, portraying Despina more as a hotel manager than as drudge, is outstanding vocally as well as in her two comedic set pieces. When Despina, disguised as a doctor, applies electrodes to the supposedly poisoned ‘Albanians’, their quivering in Don Darmutzer’s scintillating lighting is quite hilarious.
Robert Perdziola’s attractive and functional sets and costumes place the opera’s action at a Mediterranean seaside resort hotel just after the outbreak of World War I, which lends credibility to the soldiers’ departure (but not their return). Tall columns serve to separate interiors from the beach and marina behind, with large panels that slide on and off the stage to reconfigure spaces. The most effective scene is the marina at night, with the boats’ rigging illuminated, as the vessel bearing the disguised Ferrando and Guglielmo glides to the shore.
Under Fenlon Lamb’s able direction, the cast’s excellent sense of timing brings the opera’s farcical elements to life. David Stern is an energetic presence in the pit, drawing fast-paced playing, including fine woodwind solos. Singers and orchestra team up toward the end to bring out the darker themes of this Da Ponte-Mozart masterpiece.