By Khalida Sarwari
Opera San Jose will open its new season this month with “Così fan tutte,” considered by some to be one of Mozart’s more divisive and controversial works, at the California Theatre Sept. 9-24.
“ ‘Così’ revolves around Don Alfonso (Malcolm Mackenzie/Trevor Neal), who in his quest to challenge his young friends’–a pair of soldiers named Ferrando (David Blalock) and Gugliemo (Colin Ramsey)–faith in the steadfast fidelity of their fiancées, bets them that within 24 hours their fiancées will prove unfaithful. They accept Alfonso’s wager only to find the challenge too revealing and difficult to withstand.
Houston native Brad Dalton is directing this two-act Italian opera buffa a second time for Opera San Jose; the first time was back in 2009. This time around, the opera will introduce refurbished costumes and sets, thanks to a grant from the Packard Humanities Institute, he said. The story, however, will stay the same, and the veteran director would have it no other way. It’s an opera that effectively marries “a serious idea with absolutely incredibly funny moments,” he said.
“One of the reasons we love it is because we have a fantastic time watching it, because it is so amazingly entertaining and watching people in disguise doing exotic, sort of exuberant seductions, it’s just very fun to watch,” Dalton said.
It’s also been fun working with his all-new cast, he added. “They’re perfectly suited for their roles,” he said. “We’re having a fantastic time laughing and we’re just having a ball.”
In her company debut, Amanda Kingston sings the part of Fiordiligi, the older of the two sisters who are the fiancees of Gugliemo and Ferrando. Originally from Ferrara, the sisters move to Naples where they fall in love with the soldiers and plan to get married.
“They’re all very much in love, but they’re all very young and naive,” explained Kingston.
She described her own character as someone who’s measured in her actions, but also strives to be happy and do the right thing.
“She helps to guide her younger sister, but she’s very much someone who follows the rules and does things in the right order, and that isn’t challenged until the boys court her that she breaks down,” Kingston said. “And it really takes a lot of her energy to really break down and sort of have an emotional response and really learn more about love and the intricacies of it.”
Kingston said she was drawn to Fiordiligi because she’s a strong character who is idealistic but knows what she wants despite her young age. After “‘Così,” Kingston is set to perform in the role of Magda in Puccini’s “La Rondine” and Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” with the company.
Originally from Wisconsin, Kingston lives with her husband in Houston and temporarily in San Jose through the end of Opera San Jose’s season. Though she hasn’t been in the Bay Area long enough to fully explore it, Kingston said she can definitely appreciate its weather and scenery.
“The flowers are gorgeous, and it really is the perfect weather,” she said. “It’s been something I’ve very much enjoyed.”
Dalton will be supported by conductor Peter Grunberg and set designer Steven Kemp.
General director Larry Hancock will give a 45-minute talk to ticket holders about the opera at 6:30 p.m. prior to the evening shows and at 1:30 p.m. prior to the matinees.
“‘Così fan tutte” will be presented in Italian with English supertitles. The opera runs Sept. 9-24 at the California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $56-$176 at operasj.org.