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Pacific Opera Victoria stages comedy of follies and foibles

Really folks, what could go wrong?

By Tim Collins

On April 12, Pacific Opera Victoria will open it’s third opera of the season when it presents Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Così fan tutte, a coproduction with Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Théâtre de Caen, and Tokyo Nikikai Opera.

The company will stage four performances, April 12, 14 and 18 at 7:30 pm, and April 16 at 2:30 pm.

Although the opera was first performed in 1790, this version of the tale is set in the mid-twentieth century at the famous recording studio, Funkhaus Berlin.

Famed director, Diane Paulus, has described opera as the ultimate art form, containing singing, music, dance and emotion. But she’s stressed that opera is, at heart, about the story.

The story portrayed in Così fan tutte is based on a classic theme of ‘fiancee swapping’. It’s a theme that dates back to the 13th century and has been presented in the Decameron, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew, and even Ovid’s Metamorphoses. But despite its long history, the follies and foibles of the storyline simultaneously remain as relevant and foolish as they did in the 18th century.

Mezzo-soprano Hongni Wu who plays Dorabella.

The quirky comedy begins when Ferrando and Guglielmo (two army officers), having expressed their certainty in the fidelity of their respective fiancées, are ridiculed by an old cynic (Don Alphonso) who tells them that there is no such thing as a faithful woman.

The men accept a wager with Alphonso that their true loves will be faithful and agree to test the case by disguising themselves and trying to seduce each other’s fiancée.

What could go wrong?

“This may be the most profound of Mozart’s Italian comedies”, said Pacific Opera founding artistic director, Timothy Vernon. “There are certainly many deeply insightful moments throughout, including the pain of personal betrayal; the character development is as humanly real as anything in Mozart, and the conundrum of the finale, unresolved in either text or music, makes a cliched happy ending unthinkable. Strauss loved Così more than anything in the world of music. Not hard to understand why.”

The production features an outstanding artistic team with famed French stage director and costume designer, Laurent Pelly and associate director, Christian Räth from Hamburg, Germany. And, of course, it showcases some of Canada’s most renowned singers.

Italian-Canadian soprano Lucia Cesaroni returns to Pacific Opera in the role of Fiordiligi, mezzo-soprano Hongni Wu makes her Canadian debut in the role of Dorabella, and popular Canadian tenor Owen McCausland returns to take on the role of Ferrando. Baritone, Christopher Dunham, a native of Niagara Falls, takes on the role of Guglielmo, and Phillip Addis will make his role debut as Don Alfonso.

Soprano, Cécile Muhire, portrays Despina, returning after her recent company debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. The production features 16 members of the Pacific Opera Chorus, as well as the Victoria Symphony under the baton of Maestro Timothy Vernon.

Tickets for single performances start at $29, including fees and taxes. To keep Pacific Opera accessible to students, families and community organizations, Community Preview tickets are available for $15. Visit

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