Front Row Reviewers

Utah Vocal Arts Academy’s Così fan tutte is Really Groovy

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Paul Hill

Utah Vocal Arts Academy puts a new spin on an old classic by setting Mozart’s Così fan tutte (in English, Thus Do They All) in early-1970s California complete with Vietnam War protestors and dirty hippies. Performed in Provo’s Timpview High School, July 28th, at 2:00 pm, Director Isaac Hurtado showed clear vision and innovation by committing fully to the setting of the opera, in many ways clarifying an antiquated story for modern-day audiences. The opera’s premise is a bet between two brothers and a father figure about whether their girlfriends can be faithful if they leave. They then come back disguised (as hippies in UVAA’s production) to test their girlfriends fidelity.

Two standout performances were given by mezzo-soprano Mandi Barrus as Dorabella and baritone Gray Leiper as Gugliemo. Barrus delivers her lines with clear Italian diction throughout the opera, and at times I felt I could look away from the supertitles and just enjoy the meaning and characterization with which she delivers both recit and aria. Her impressive technique and clear tone carry her through ensemble singing and especially served her well in the aria Smanie, implacabili. This aria is a breath of fresh air in the first act, and really brought me back into the story with Barrus’ overly dramatic proclamation that her grief is overwhelming, so much so that she wishes she could die. Leiper similarly delivers throughout the opera. Whether he is a soldier or a hippie, his clear baritone and vocal mastery never waver. Barrus and Leiper have real chemistry as Gugliemo tries to seduce Dorabella, who despite her slight attempts at vows of faithfulness, quickly becomes butter in his hands.

Soprano Casey Winkelman as Fiordiligi sings with great depth and color. Though initially somewhat shaky in pitch, Winkelman blossoms in the aria “Per pietà, ben mio, perdona” as her character continues in her path of fidelity. Tenor Ricardo Garcia sings Ferrando with excellent diction and a truly unique voice. While I would have preferred some exploration of a lighter production for some moments of singing, he really personifies the laid back “make love, not war” physicality of a 70s hippie.

Victoria Khalil as Despina is a true comic and sings with excellent production. Her character is truly the glue that holds the story together and she unfailingly owns every situation whether it is as the restaurant owner, 70s guru with a turban, or as the notary. I really enjoyed her performance. Isaac Carlin as Don Alfonso sings with legato and very natural sounding Italian diction.

Hurtado as director really showed creativity and innovation with his setting and direction. From the use of the chorus as Vietnam War protestors, changing the supertitles to phrases from this landmark period in American history (having the chorus subtitles as “make love, not war”), to the complete change of characterizations for the boyfriends, Hurtado really shines in this production.

Regarding the chorus, I thought the singers had a strong, unified sound and were well utilized throughout the production. I really enjoyed Fiordiligi and Dorabella’s costumes from act II. Costumer designer Robbine Booth showed clear inspiration and made me reminiscent of fashion icons from the time. Particularly her choice of costume for Dorabella in act II reminded me of fashion model, Twiggy.

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Conductor Greg Ritchey really brings together a good sound from the orchestra. I would have liked brisker tempi particularly in the finales of each act, but was aurally pleased with intonation, ensemble, and the overall achievements of the orchestra.

Utah Vocal Arts Academy’s Così fan tutte by Mozart was a feast for the eyes, ears, and senses. Beautiful music with a super hip vibe. An excellent production, suitable for the whole family.

Utah Vocal Arts Academy presents Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Timpview High School, 3570 Timpview Dr., Provo, Utah 84604
July 27th, 7:30 PM, July 28th, 2:00 PM
Tickets: $12, $8 Senior Citizens and Students
Utah Vocal Arts Academy Facebook Page


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