The IU Opera Theatre opened their 2005-2006 season in with a nicely styled and warmly received production of Mozart's "School for Lovers, Cosi Fan Tutte."
Saturday night Kevin Murphy was an always urbane Don Alfonso, the man who bets a couple of romantic young men that the affections of their fiancées can be swayed by attractive circumstances. Tenor Jordan Bluth and baritone Chris Carducci were the ardent young army officers.
Mezzo Kathryn Leemhuis and soprano Vera Savage were their respective sighing ladies. Soprano Georgina Joshi was the ladys' maid and the partner of Don Alfonso in his schemes to teach the lovers a lesson.
It's a nice touch that the Opera Theatre's program booklet for "Cosi " has pictures and brief biographies of the singers along with the usual synopsis of the action. In addition there's a thoughtful essay by Mona Seghatoleslami.
Stage director Vincent Liotta has crafted a production that is nicely balanced. Though "Cosi Fan Tutte" is sung in Italian, the actors and the supertitles made the broadest parts of the comedy and the occasionally darker drama work smoothly. Staged scenes alternated with solos and ensembles sung directly to the audience.
The IU Opera Theatre's production is staged in two acts with a single intermission. Lively action made the hour and a half first act go by quickly. The second act went as well, though it slackens a bit in the middle when characters sing about the action instead of being in its midst.
IU graduate student Andrew Altenbach has taken over conducting duties for "Cosi Fan Tutte" following the sudden death of music director Randall Behr. Altenbach led a performance with plenty of energy and rhythmic drive coupled with great attention to Mozart's rich orchestral detail.
The end of "Cosi Fan Tutte" despite its somewhat bitter education of the young lovers seems formulaic and predetermined. However the IU Opera ends its very satisfying production with a bit of a surprise.
There are final "surprising" performances of Cosi Fan Tutte this Friday and Saturday and then the IU Opera Theatre turns its attention to Shakespeare with Gounod's "Romeo and Juliette" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Benjamin Britten.
You can listen to an interview with Cosi's conductor Andrew Altenbach on our Arts Interviews page .