Atlanta Opera rounded out its 2010–11 season with Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte (seen Apr. 9). Director José Maria Condemi updated the action to pre-World War I Naples in order to provide more plausibility to the staged departure of Ferrando and Guglielmo as they pretend to leave their sweethearts, Dorabella and Fiordiligi, for the battlefield — all the while testing the devotion of the young women. The production design by Peter Dean Beck was effective: a gold-trimmed proscenium framed a pleasing view of the cerulean sea, and a pair of trees flanked each side of a stage dotted with simple furniture.
At first impression, the prelude of the opera lacked impact. The strings were noticeably deficient of resonance and unity, but conductor Kazem Abdullah summoned the Atlanta Opera Orchestra to attention soon afterward, and Act I proceeded at a satisfying clip. In fact, the musical pacing couldn’t have been better, nor Condemi’s traditional staging more in sync with the movement of Mozart’s comic music.
The capable young ensemble infused the production with surprising moments of laugh-out-loud antics. Soprano Kiera Duffy, a first-rate ham, played her trio of roles — Despina, Doctor and Notary — as hilarious caricatures. Jennifer Holloway, a bright-voiced mezzo with easy top notes, was the gullible Dorabella; Keri Alkema sang Fiordiligi with impressive dynamic contrast and shades of color, best displayed within “Per pietà, ben mio.” The sisters sang with voices that sounded splendid in duet — if not remarkably similar in timbre — as did the voices of their counterparts, tenor Matthew Plenk (Ferrando) and baritone Phillip Addis (Guglielmo).
Ferrando’s aria “Ah lo veggio” was omitted, making for an awkward exit, but in his Act I aria, “Un’aura amorosa,” Plenk was especially assured; the young tenor seemed particularly adept at the ensemble singing that reigns throughout Così. Addis, too, is a fine singer, possessing both a knack for buffo arias and fabulous comic timing. Jason Hardy was a spry Don Alfonso, conducting his scuola degli amanti with efficiency but sometimes missing the mark musically.
After almost three hours of farce, the opera production took a solemn downturn and the director left the audience unsure of whether the couples would reunite in any combination. Condemi’s intention was not lieto fine but to create a finale that would resonate with a twenty-first-century awareness of the complexity of the human heart.