San Francisco Opera:  Così Fan Tutte

April 30, 1999

San Francisco Opera's Opera Center Showcase production this year was a delightful production of Così Fan Tutte.  Featuring the youthful voices of the S.F. Opera Adler Fellows, it was a charming, but sometimes uneven evening of Mozart.  Without a doubt, Tammy Jenkins stole the show as Despina.  Her gorgeous mezzo voice was filled with rich warm tones.  She was witty with just a touch of cynicism and never went over the top in the role.  I think Ms. Jenkins would make a fantastic Carmen in the near future.  Her corsets were cinched up so tight it seemed unbelievable that her bosoms didn't explode out of her bodice, but she remained modest throughout.  My second choice for stand out was John Ames' Don Alfonso.  I can't imagine that this young man is more than 25, but he played the role of the misanthrope to a "T".  He had all of the low notes with very good volume.

Catherine Cook, who was unforgettable last year as Mrs. Sedley in Peter Grimes, was very good as Dorabella, although she didn't possess quite the richness I like to hear in a mezzo.  Christina Lamberti portrayed Fiordiligi.  She was the highlight of last year's Opera Center production of Iphigénie in Tauride.  Lamberti missed the mark on "Come Scoglio", glorious full blazing top but no chest tones at all and the sound was dry.  But she ably redeemed herself in Act II.  I get so irritated when people laugh Mozart off as easy rep.  Fiordiligi is a very tough role to do and do well.

Guglielmo was sung by James Westman and Todd Greer sang Ferrando, both are first year Adler Fellows.  Both sang well and their comic interpretation was excellent.  I preferred the pairing of Guglielmo and Dorabella.

The staging was 18th century powdered wigs and cinched corsets, with the Albanian's costumes straight out of the Arabian Nights.  I actually prefer it that way because it makes the plot more plausible than a 20th century take on this tale.

The unfortunate part of the production was the theatre.  The Fort Mason Cowell Theatre isn't accustomed to this type of work, it lends itself better to plays, modern dance and monologues.  There is no pit so the orchestra was stretched the full length of the theatre with the harpsichord tucked way off to the right side.  It made for an extremely difficult situation for the conductor.  William Lacey made the most of the situation and gave a brisk and lively reading of the score.  I must note that the horn section did a fantastic job.

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So Despina, don't waste good chocolate on those two dizzy dames. . .
Yum! let's make some Truffles.

    Chocolate-Caramel Truffles
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • 9 oz chopped dark chocolate
  • rolling suggestions:  toasted coconut, cocoa powder, non-pariels
       and for curmudgeons:  chopped toasted almonds, chopped
       toasted hazelnuts    ;-)
Place the sugar in a heavy pan place over medium to medium high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon.   Slowly melt the sugar and allow it to brown to desired caramel color.  Don't allow it to burn.  This is called a "dry caramel".

Add the heavy cream and mix well, blending until the cream fully dissolves into the caramel.  Remove from the heat and add the dark chocolate.  Allow the mixture to cool.

Roll into 1 oz balls (I use a one-ounce ice cream scoop available at gourmet shops) and then roll in desired topping.  Keep refrigerated until served, but let them come to room temp before serving.

Unless you are skilled in the ways of tempering chocolate, I do not recommend attempting to hand-dip these truffles in chocolate.

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