Thursday, February 12, 2009

Opera San Jose, Cosi fan tutte, 2/07/09

In regional opera, sopranos are supposed to be a dime a dozen - and quality baritones and golden-voiced tenors the rare birds. What a phenomenal decade it's been for Opera San Jose, as Irene Dalis's resident troupe has put on casts of remarkable male singers.

OSJ's opening-night production of "Cosi fan tutte," then, might mark a return to normalcy. Michael Dailey as tenor Ferrando and Daniel Cilli as baritone Guglielmo are certainly fine singers and good comedians, but their voices have yet to hit that mid-residency blossom point where the sound begins to jump off the stage.

In the case of the sister sopranos, however - abbondanza! Betany Coffland endows Dorabella with a powerful mezzo that cuts right through the orchestra, particularly in her first-act aria of grief, "Smanie implacabili." Rebecca Davis displays a vivid lyric soprano as Fiordiligi, with superb and easy top-notes. She's not quite up to the off-the-cliff low notes of the monstrous second-act aria, "Per pieta, ben mio," but then, few but Mozart's original template, Adriana Ferrarese, are. The many duets between the sisters are harmonically ecstatic experiences. The two are also spot-on in character - the frisky, gullible Dorabella, the stern, morally solid Fiordiligi - and up to the excellent physical humor coached by stage director Brad Dalton.

The two comedian parts are in capable hands, as well. Khori Dastoor, who has spent most of her residency playing ingenues, falls easily into the soubrette role of Despina, and (who knows?) might have found herself a new career path. (You could do worse than having all the onstage fun.) And baritone Joseph Rawley, a Merola alumnus, displays the most robust voice in the cast, as well as the perfect blend of cynicism and fun, as Don Alfonso.

The extremely conflicted da Ponte plot - in which two lovers go into disguise to woo their best friend's betrothed - gets better and better with age. Or could it be that opera critics get more cynical with age?

Opera San Jose, Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte," through Feb. 22, California Theatre, 345 S. First St., $69-$91, 408/437-4450,

Photo by Pat Kirk.

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