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BWW Review: COVID FAN TUTTE at Methodist Church In Camarillo

An Amusing Tale for Our Time

BWW Review: COVID FAN TUTTE at Methodist Church In Camarillo

BWW Review: COVID FAN TUTTE at Methodist Church In Camarillo

On Sunday afternoon November 22, 2020, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented COVID Fan Tutte, an updated version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte's Cosi Fan Tutte. The perfomance was presented drive-in style in the parking lot of the United Methodist Church on Anacapa Drive in Camarillo, CA. The lot accommodates 90 carefully positioned cars from which patrons see the a live opera performance on a raised stage and hear it on their cars' FM sets.

POP's March performances of Cosi were canceled mid-rehearsal due to the pandemic, so director and designer Josh Shaw brought it back with a new singable, rhymed English libretto when and where staged live performance became possible. When Shaw was presented with theater-closing lemons, he made extra-fancy lemonade. He set his production in a Southern California golf club where two girls are spending their time in quarantine dating two caddies.

Don Alfonso, a rich, meddling club member, suggests a wager with the boys to see if their girls are truly faithful. Despina, a waitress at the club's snack bar, is happy to assist Don Alfonso with his bet for cash. The boys are "furloughed" rather than drafted, but they are kicked out of their apartment. When they return to the women, masked and disguised, each tries to tempt the other's girlfriend. In this show, singers were sometimes masked and Despina even had a face shield on occasion. To ensure maximum safety for the artists and compliance with government regulations, this cast featured three real-life couples. Everyone was tested and quarantined during the production.

Costumer Maggie Green supplied golf outfits for the principals, including knickers for Don Alfonso. The ladies' short, tight skirts were flattering but Despina's black waitress outfit confirmed her character as an older woman who has experienced many of life's vicissitudes. The men's disguises made them look deliberately out of style until the end when they returned as upper class caddies.

As Don Alfonso, E. Scott Levin excelled in driving the events of the opera forward to prove the women's inconstancy. He approached the women with tragic demeanor to break the false news of their lovers' being furloughed and sent away. His relationship with Ariel Pisturino's Despina evoked disinterest until he showed her money, but when he sang with Chamberlin and Pezzarossi, the warmth of his low tones seemed to comfort their despair.

This Despina was a waitress who wanted to rule the world and Ariel Pisturino's endless dynamic energy became part of her jaded character. She lightened the tragic mode of her ladies' sorrow when she urged them to enjoy the available lovers. Her last disguise as "The Notorious R.B.G," made sense since the opera's story called for a judge.

As Ferrando and Guglielmo, Nathan Granner and Colin Ramsey were an amusing duo who also created a sentimental atmosphere for the opera's most poignant moments. Their swaggering gestures drew laughter and horn-blowing applause, but did not distract from their amorous pursuits. Both sang with smooth, resonant tones throughout their ranges.

As the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, Jamie Chamberlin and Christina Pezzarossi, gave finely detailed performances and they excelled in bringing out the flirtatious aspects of their characters. Their opening duet quickly endeared them to the audience. In Fiordiligi's aria originally titled "Come Scoglio" ("Like a Rock"), Jamie Chamberlin handled the alternating high and low notes with finesse. Not to to be outdone, Pezzarossi fueled the sensual interpretation of her role with smoldering mezzo tones.

Conductor Kyle Naig arranged the Mozart score for soloists and a group of chamber players, eliminating the chorus altogether and cutting the performance time down to a mere two hours with no intermission. He drove the POP ensemble at a brisk pace with vigorous motions that evoked silken tones and eloquent eighteenth century style from the players. This amusing performance was a wonderful way to spend two hours safely away from this time of pestilence and pandemic.

Pacific Opera Project will present drive-in performances of Puccini's La Bohème aka The Hipsters, on December 10, 12, and 13 at the United Methodist Church parking lot on Anacapa Drive in Camarillo, CA. That will be the last outing for this well-loved production.

Photo by Martha Benedict

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From This Author Maria Nockin