Review: Performances shine in Palm Beach Opera's 'Così fan tutte'

Palm Beach Opera’s 'Cosi Fan Tutte' will be performed at 2 this afternoon at the Kravis Center.
Palm Beach Opera’s 'Cosi Fan Tutte' will be performed at 2 this afternoon at the Kravis Center.

Palm Beach Opera presented its opening performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Così fan tutte,” (“All women do the same” or “School for Lovers”) on Friday at the Kravis Center.

This performance is set in the year 1914 in a Mediterranean resort. Lighting designer Don Darnutzer opened the performance with bold color palettes that accentuated the costumes and scenery designed by Robert Perdziola. Character relationships were established quickly during the overture, where a turn-of-the-20th century party scene, complete with gambling, showed the counterpoint of happy couples and couples in trouble.

Tenor Duke Kim as Ferrando absolutely shines as an operatic star in the aria, “Un aura amorosa” from Act I, Scene III. Kim performed with effortless technique and a brightness in the voice that displayed every stunning transition. The duets and ensemble scenes with baritone Thomas Glass as Guglielmo were a comedic delight, as well as a beautiful blending of perfect vocal color.

Glass is a stunning baritone voice with an endless depth of sound and commanding stage presence. In “Così,” Glass knows exactly how to manipulate his character to portray the levels of emotion and realization needed to go from loveable to distressed. In the aria, “Non siate ritrosi,” Glass does a fine job of extolling the virtues of soldiers while teasing Fiordiligi with a fake beard.

Harpsichordist Aya Hamada stepped in to perform with the orchestra on the many continuo passages during the evening. Hamada’s elegant styling was a powerful foundation for the performance.

During the performance, a lovely beach scene was used as a backdrop for the entrances of soprano Hailey Clark as Fiordiligi and mezzo soprano Samantha Hankey as Dorabella, who were both shown fawning over photographs of their respective lovers while wearing reading glasses. This moment seemed to emphasize the overall theme of “love is blind.”

The ensemble performance of “Soave sia il vento,” with baritone Dennis Jesse as Don Alfonso, was a breathtaking moment in the opera, as wave upon wave of Mozart’s gorgeous vocal lines washed over the audience. Clark effortlessly sailed at the top of the ensemble in delicate perfection. Hankey’s rousing performance of the aria “Smanie implacabili” saw the characters of Fiordiligi and Dorabella behaving like spoiled brats, throwing fits and objects about. This scene may have given Despina a reason to join forces with Don Alfonso to test the lovers. Hankey later performed “Come scoglio” with bold presence and evenness of tone from top to bottom.

Soprano Madison Leonard’s performance as Despina is crucial in holding the opera together. Leonard’s comedic timing and willingness to inflect a powerful and even soprano voice to the demands of Despina’s character made every scene a success.

In particular, the audience greatly enjoyed the ensemble scene “Eccovi il medico signore belle,” in which Leonard portrayed a doctor with a lisp and operated a magnet machine that shocked anyone who touched it. Director Fenlon Lamb creates many hilarious moments in this scene, with the magnets causing Despina’s vocal vibrato to go over the top and reanimate the suffering lovers.

The show concludes at 2 p.m. today at the Kravis Center.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Palm Beach Opera's 'Cosi fan tutte' at Kravis Center is memorable