Many of the cast members are Hudson County natives, including Union City's Victoria Wefer and West New York's Joe Abreu.
The play was a production of the music department of the New Jersey City University and was originally intended to be staged at the University, located on Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City. However, according to university officials, the production had to be moved at the last minute when the sprinkler system accidentally went off in the school's auditorium, ruining vital equipment and causing extensive damage.
Needless to say, panic set in, as this mishap occurred in the middle of rehearsals and immediately threw everything into disarray.
According to the production's co-director, Adria Firestone, "It was absolutely crazy. The time span was so short. We ended up having to decide between the Park Theater and Loew's Theater in Jersey City, but the Loew's just didn't have the lighting systems we needed (the Loew's Theater is currently undergoing massive renovations). We were really upset when it first happened, but we thought of the Park Theater in Union City and I am really glad we did."
Added Firestone, "It's a really wonderful place. We're very happy here. We feel like we're home. The staff have been wonderful to us. This has been frenetic and wild, but we're home."
The play's the thing
According to www.infoplease.com, "Cosi Fan Tutte," Mozart's final comic opera "is a laughing look at the twists and turns of romantic love, and was originally attacked for portraying faithless women. Some early performances were even accompanied by apologies for the frivolous plot."
And certainly, at last Sunday's performance, the actors and singers were playing for laughs. The dialogue was sung in English to give those in the audience who might have been operatically uninitiated a chance to better appreciate the play.
There were three performances of the play. One of them presented to children from in and around Hudson County. According to production officials, all of the performances were well-attended. However, the final performance last Sunday, a matinee, played to about a half-full theater. This did nothing to dull the spirits of the actors or those who were in attendance. Attention was rapt and laughter was loud as the audience rolled with the comic punches doled out by the deft interplay of characters and their foibles.
Victoria Lefer, 28, a soprano who played "Fiordiligi" in the production, is a native of Union City and is a proud graduate of the Washington School and Union Hill High School. When asked when she knew she wanted to be a singer, Lefer said, "Oh definitely in high school. I was in the choir, the Union Hill Singers." But Lefer's introduction to the world of opera was, by her own admission, kind of a fluke. "One of the music teachers at school told me about a performance and gave me an application because she knew I liked to sing. I took it to the choir teacher and she told me 'If you're going to do this, you need voice lessons.' So I started working with my voice coach, Louisa Mara-Nadir, and I was with her until just a couple of years ago."
Lefer eventually decided that opera would be her vocation and began pursuing a master's degree in Operatic Performance at New Jersey City University.
Lefer's goal for the future is simple. Said Lefer in a recent telephone interview, "My goal is to work with an operatic reparatory company. I really want to give something back. It means a lot to me that we were able to do this performance in Union City. It's one of the reasons I feel that I was meant to do this. I need to feel as if I can give something back to the community."
West New York native Joe Abreu, 21, played the role of "Guglielmo" in the production and is a relative newcomer to the world of operatic performance. He began singing seriously at the age of 18. He said he always knew he had the talent, but a career in the Air Force Reserves served as a brief sidetrack.
After returning from military life, Abreu entered New Jersey City University to pursue a degree in Music Education.
Said Abreu of the Park Theater performance, "It was awesome, really good. It was a great experience. It was my first operatic performance."
Added Abreu, "It really verified for me, that I can really do this but it is also a stepping stone to other things I want to do. It was a big production, but I was really comfortable on stage. You'd better be after three months of rehearsals. My favorite part was performing for the kids."