Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mozart in Chicago by way of Toscas

The Skylight’s pleasantly disorienting juxtaposition in COSI FAN TUTTE

By Russ Bickerstaff
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photo by Mark Frohna

The Skylight Opera Theatre’s latest Mozart opera opens with a recording of Frank Sinatra. There’s that distinctive sound of the orchestra tuning-up, then the curtain speech. The light’s dim, and there’s the distinctive sound of Frank (or was it Tony Bennett?) singing about Chicago. The song feels a few vague years out of synch with the era of the production, which is itself a few hundred years out of synch with the original era of the original opera.

photo by Mark Frohna

Set in the very specific world of office culture in Chicago in 1959, The Skylight’s Cosi Fan Tutte is far from being a traditional staging of a classic late 18th century opera. The contemporary adaptation with a new libretto by Dmitri Toscas may not imbue the story with any greater degree of depth. It may not provide any additional insight into the nature of human emotion. Indeed, Toscas’ lighthearted comedy may lack some of the deeper emotion found in Mozart’s music—but the Skylight’s staging has is stylishly inspired with a dichotomous approach that manages to be both retro and progressive—reverent and irreverent. Purists aside, this production has an opportunity to fuse traditional audiences with a newer crowd in a way that last year’s production of Rent could not have achieved.

photo by Mark Frohna

The story begins to set-in even before the first vocals rush out into the Cabot Theatre. Sisters Flora and Dora (Kathy Pyeatt and Lindsey Falduto, respectively) wake-up and get ready for another day at the steno pool. Next we see their boyfriends Elmer and Randall (Mark Womack and Brandon Wood) commuting to the same office. They make a bet with their boss (Peter Clark) that their girlfriends would remain faithful to them no matter what. Randall and Elmer are allegedly called away on a big corporate promotion, disguising themselves as beatniks who then attempt to seduce their girlfriends incognito.

photo by Mark Frohna

With beautifully iconic set design by Ken Goldstein and sharply chic costume design by Carol J. Blanchard, the The Skylight Opera Theatre’s production of Cosi Fan Tutte continues through April 3rd at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre. For reservations, call 414-291-7800. 

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