`Cosi fan tutte' to offer audience a familiar port

Opera: Annapolis in the 19th century is the setting for this restaging of Mozart's classic.

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March 29, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Most of the time, power and charm seem to be emanating from completely different sources.

After all, power is visceral and forceful, while charm is imbued with deftly applied dashes of elegance and artful wit.

But when listening to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, this distinction begins to break down. And with his celestial opera, "Cosi fan tutte," which will be performed this weekend at Maryland Hall by the Annapolis Opera, the power/charm dichotomy is obliterated with authority.

Fresh, comic touches of the "opera buffa" style abound in this miraculous score completed in January 1790. To find them, one need look no further than the rollicking overture which is one of the fizziest, most inviting musical appetizers of them all.

But this tale of a pair of sisters and the elements of loyalty, deception, fickleness, acceptance and ultimate ambiguity that fill their love lives inspired Mozart to craft solos and ensemble numbers that pack an immense emotional wallop.

Indeed, "Soave sia il vento," the trio of farewell sung by sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella with Don Alfonso, the provocateur who is pretending to send their boyfriends away so he can win a bet, is one of the most achingly sad and beautiful interludes of the Mozart canon.

"Cosi fan tutte," an untranslatable Italian title sometimes called "Women are Like That," can be set in almost any historical period. (A recent production at New York's Metropolitan Opera had Ferrando and Guglielmo, the two girls' love interests, donning Armani suits and sunglasses as the disguises calculated to lure the girls into infidelity.)

This weekend's production, staged by director Braxton Peters, will take us to 19th century Annapolis where Don Alfonso, an officer at the Naval Academy, discusses the subject of women with Ferrando and Guglielmo, midshipmen he has known since birth.

Tenor Richard Crawley will make his Annapolis Opera debut in the role of Ferrando. A veteran of the Houston Grand Opera, Tulsa Opera and Lake George Opera Festival, Crawley has also appeared with the Baltimore, New Mexico and Syracuse symphonies.

Baritone Arturo Chacon, who will sing the role of Guglielmo, was last heard at Maryland Hall in the Annapolis Opera's recent production of Verdi's "Rigoletto." This up-and-coming singer's calendar includes engagements with the Delaware Opera and with the Lyric Opera of his native Costa Rica.

Soprano Angela Fout, the well-deserved winner of the Annapolis Opera's vocal competition last year, will sing the role of Fiordiligi. A product of New York's Juilliard School, Fout was the regional finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions last year.

Lori Hultgren, who appeared as Maddalena in the Annapolis Opera's "Rigoletto," will sing the role of Dorabella. A stylish mezzo soprano, Hultgren has a resume that boasts numerous appearances with orchestras and the undertaking of a number of operatic roles, including Carmen.

Soprano Fleta Hylton appears as the maid, Despina, and bass-baritone Robert Cantrell, whom opera aficionados will remember as Escamillo in the local company's production of "Carmen" a few years back, is Don Alfonso.

Ronald Gretz will conduct the production, which will be heard at Maryland Hall at 8 p.m. tomorrow and 3 p.m. Sunday. The two-act opera will be sung in Italian with English surtitles. Seats are $45. Tickets also are available for a $20 dinner and preshow lecture at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at Heritage Harbour, and a $22 brunch and lecture at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Naval Academy Officer's and Faculty Club. For tickets, call the opera office at 410-267-8135.

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