UMKC Conservatory’s Fall Opera hits a high note with “Cosi Fan Tutte”
Senior Staff Writer
As the lights rise upon the stage in White Recital Hall, the orchestra tunes up, bringing the once chattering audience to silence.
The Conservatory’s production of “Cosi Fan Tutte” is about to start, and with such performances as Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene” last semester and Jules Massenet’s “Cendrillon” the semester before already under the their belt, the standard is high. Hailed as Mozart’s funniest opera, “Cosi Fan Tutte” tells a story of youthful exuberance, emotional intrigue and dubious treachery.
Set in Naples during the height of war, the opera begins in the frat house of Delta Iota Kappa as two of the fraternity’s brothers, Guglielmo and Ferrando, played by Devin D. Burton and Christopher Puckett, are singing the praises of their girlfriends Fordiligi and DoraBella. The “room”: a couch surrounded by four large squared-off pillars covered in sports posters and pornography, various night stands and a lone table holding a flat-screen television the boys are using to play Xbox. Overhearing their boasts, the scheming Don Alfonso, played by Christopher Carbin, hatches a scheme to make fools of the two. Alfonso says that there should never be any certainty in the fidelity of a woman and wagers Guglielmo and Ferrando that in a single day he can prove their boasts unfounded. With a laugh, the two young men agree to the wager, confident of the virtue of their girlfriends.
The next scene shifts to the sorority house of Eta Omicrom Tau, a similarly-constructed room with the pillars turned around to reveal pink walls with kitten calendars and corkboards. It is here where the sisters Flordiligi and Dorabella, played by Ashley Yvonne Wheat and Alice-Anne Light are busy taking selfies and boasting about their boyfriends. Just as they are confidently planning out their eventual engagements to the boys, Alfonso comes in to bring distressing news. After milking the faux sorrow of the fabricated crisis, Alfonso is eventually convinced by the sisters to reveal the horror that has befallen their boyfriends. The sisters are informed that the boys have been drafted and they are to sail out within the hour.
The three make it to the docks just as the two young men are about to leave. Heartfelt goodbyes are exchanged under the roar of a triumphant anthem beginning with “The military is awesome!” The sisters give their tearful farewells as the ship leaves the bay. Part two of Alfonso’s plan is now set in motion. Returning to the sorority house, Despina the maid, played by Alba Cancel, begins cleaning while lamenting the lack of respect she receives from the sorority sisters. Flordiligi and Dorabella enter, wracked with despair and melancholy from the departure of their boyfriends. Despina finds it at first hard to believe their feelings, and explains to them that a woman’s fidelity is something that shouldn’t be given to a man, and that the two should just get new boyfriends, leaving the sisters appalled at the very notion. After Alfonso gives Despina a bribe to help with the plot, Guglielmo and Ferrando enter, disguised as the hipsters from hell with fake beards and shutter shades.
They dramatically and boisterously announce their love for the sisters but their confessions are met only with scorn and disgust, leaving the two confident in winning the bet. Alfonso pleads for one more day to keep up with the plan and the boys, drunk with jubilation over their assumed victory, agree. Later, the sisters’ moment of despair over their departed loves is interrupted by the return of the disguised Guglielmo and Ferrando. Screaming and staggering with bottles of bleach in hand, they tell the sisters that their cruel rejection has left them with nothing to live for and thus they plan to end their lives at their very feet. Alfonso appears to help bring some control to the situation but the two disguised boyfriends hurriedly drink the “poison” and flounder about on the floor as the sisters look on in horror and Alfonso leaves to get a doctor.
Alfonso returns with Despina, disguised as a mad doctor who promises to heal the two boys. Though the doctor’s methods seem strange and unprecedented, Alfonso assures the sisters the boys are in good hands. The now medicinal Despina grabs the two and slaps them about before throwing both of them in chairs and electrocuting them with a car battery. The boys, though shaken and shocked, are “revived” and request kisses from Flordiligi and Dorabella, as the only real cure for them are the lips of the sisters. The two refuse and deject them from their room.
The beginning of act two finds the pieces Alfonso’s plot falling into place as the two sisters, after a lengthy pep talk from Despina, agree to join together in flirting with the two disguised strangers. When the four of them meet, Dorabella is very quickly smitten with Guglielmo and after a heartfelt confession, including Burton actually spray painting a heart on a wall to symbolically give his heart to her, Dorabella gives Guglielmo the dog tag of Ferrando and the two exit off stage. Ferrando does not fare as well with Fiordiligi and she completely rejects him to run away and suffer what almost seems to be a complete emotional breakdown over her own guilt. Ferrando and Guglielmo convene as Ferrando applauds Fiordiligi’s fidelity after rejecting him but when it is revealed to him that Dorabella was not as faithful, Ferrando lashes out while Guglielmo sings of how the blame should fall on the women.
They eventually reconcile, and after Ferrando and Fiordiligi are found in bed by Alfonso, it is decided that the couples must get married. Alfonso produces a heavily inebriated Despina once again disguised, this time as the notary to the ceremony, and a marriage contract is signed by the four. Just as they sign, Alfonso reveals that the boys’ ship has come to the docks and they are returning from the war. The sisters hide their new husbands away and Guglielmo and Ferrando return dressed in their army fatigues, happy to once again be with a very awestruck and nervous Fordiligi and DoraBella. When a very drunk notary is discovered hiding under a table, the boys accuse the sisters of infidelity. Shortly after, the boys admit fully to both being unfaithful and going along with the scheme, though the four decide that life must be lived with the understanding that it will not always be wonderful and you can never expect the world from anyone. In a touching and vaguely foretelling act, the couples embrace. The secret lovers in each pair hold hands as they stare at the audience while the stage goes dark.