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[whitespace] Paul Thompson and Andrew Morgan
The Dating Game: Paul Thompson and Andrew Morgan play lovers who concoct a plan to test their girlfriends in Bay Shore Lyric's production of 'Cosi Fan Tutte.'

Dearth of Wit

Despite taking on one of Mozart's most popular comedies, Bay Shore Lyric Opera turns out a 'Cosi' without humor

By Scott MacClelland

'ALL WOMEN ARE like that," promises the Bay Shore Lyric Opera's production of Cosi Fan Tutte. Of course, the same cannot be said of all productions of the Mozart comedy--including this one, which is being presented by two different casts. The second, heard Oct. 16 at Bay Shore's Capitola Theater, featured Ariana Lise Newcomer as Fiordiligi, Stacy Cohen as Dorabella, Andrew Morgan as Ferrando and Leslie Dennis as Despina.

Thanks to Bay Shore's considerable resources, the former movie house makes for an effective and intimate setting for small-scale productions like this one. In fact, such an environment makes opera in English all the more sensible since understanding the words is so easy. (The dry acoustic makes that result even easier.) One therefore might wonder why hearing the Italian words and having to crane up to read supertitles was preferred in this case. Of course the dry acoustic response of the room does not enhance the sound of the music. Even the 25-piece orchestra had to work hard to sustain sonority, notwithstanding Claire Schneeberger's heroic efforts on the podium.

In this production, stage director Natalie Goss's design lacked wit, deferring a range of possible sight gags and comedic bits to the singing actors. They, in turn, took their task seriously, also failing to engage the piece as the farce it is. The result was a comedy without humor, a performance without laughs. Only Dennis (as Despina) seemed to catch on, skillfully exaggerating her assigned role into an appealing character and, by the way, delivering the biggest and best vocal display of the entire cast. Not only does Dennis have the equipment to spark an operatic image, she also has the flair and imagination. Cohen was a close second, producing vocal quality, facial expressions and stage presence well-suited to the part. Newcomer, by contrast, delivered a light vocal production and made little of her on-stage character.

As Ferrando, Andrew Morgan struggled through some insecurities but did convey an attractive "ping" and phrase in his solo scenes. Paul Thompson appeared as Guglielmo, as he had on opening night. While the story line requires that they attempt to seduce each other's girlfriends, neither went far in exploiting the laugh potential in those misadventures. James Grainger as Don Alfonso was frankly dull.

As for laughs, most of them went to the stage crew responsible for rotating the sets and stitching the drops together as the scenes changed. Someone connected with the production probably knows why some of those changes were made with the curtain open while others were hidden from view. For what it's worth, the audience seemed to take more pleasure from watching the crew. Some people are determined to get the laughs they've paid for.

An ending note: Since there's no madness like opera madness, both Bay Shore Lyric Opera and Santa Cruz Bay City Opera promise early-2000 productions of Madama Butterfly for their next show.


Bay Shore Lyric Opera's production of Wolfgang Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte runs at 7:30pm Friday and Saturday and Nov. 11, 13 and 20, 2:20pm Sunday and Nov. 7 and 21. $22-$27. (462.3131)

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From the October 20-27, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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