Review / ‘Enthusiastic’ show comes from limited budget

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Nathanael Patterson, Keren Dalzell, Andrew Barrow, Clare Hedley, Katrina Wiseman and Peter Smith
IT’s quite a major undertaking for a local, non-professional company to stage a full Mozart opera on a limited budget. 

Canberra Opera’s production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” works quite nicely, due to some fine singing and imaginative staging.

Originally performed in Vienna in 1790, “Cosi Fan Tutte” usually translated in English to “Women Are Like That”. It’s a silly romp involving young lovers, disguises and a now, an inappropriate test of woman’s fidelity. This modern day production is set in a popular café called “The Hamlet” in Canberra’s Braddon and it plays surprisingly well on a simple but atmospheric set by Mel Davies.

Spoiled sisters Fiordiligi (Keren Dalzell) and Dorabella (Clare Hedley) run their own café. Cynical Don Alfonso (Peter Smith) aims to prove to their fiancés, Duntroon graduates Guglielmo (Nathanael Patterson) and Ferrando (Andrew Barrow), that all women are the same and, when put to the test, will not remain faithful to their partners. The young men pretend to be deployed overseas and then transform themselves into unrecognisable suitors that try to tempt the young ladies with their affections.

Katrina Wiseman as Despina.
The sisters and their fiancés, Keren Dalzell and Clare Hedley, Andrew Barrow and Nathanael Patterson, sang well and performed their large roles with confidence. Peter Smith was in fine voice as the oily Don Alfonso and Katrina Wiseman displayed notable comic timing and nicely sang the role of the waitress, Despina. The chorus of singers provided good vocal support as well.

Musical director Kathleen Loh has done an excellent job with the singers. Their singing was technically accurate and their diction was clear. Conductor Lizzy Collier and her small orchestra played the lengthy score very capably.

Director Elisha Holley has done well with her Braddon café concept and the production flows nicely. More work needed to be done with the chorus who were a bit under-directed and there were some melodramatic moments here and there that seemed more 18th century Italy than modern day Braddon.

Canberra Opera’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” shows what can be done by an enthusiastic company with limited resources. I’ve seen lavish professional presentations of this opera that were not as enjoyable as this production.

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