Reviewed by Paul Charlesworth
Glyndebourne Opera has a deservedly great reputation for productions of Mozart operas and, in the last five years, visitors to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre have been able to see all three of the works on which the composer collaborated with the colourful librettist, Carlo Da Ponte. In 2012 we were treated to Michael Grandage’s production of The Marriage of Figaro; last year I reviewed Don Giovanni and now we have Cosi Fan Tutte. The Da Ponte operas, along with The Magic Flute, comprise the most popular and the most frequently performed of Mozart’s operas.
The production by Nicholas Hytner, currently on tour, is not new; in fact, it was originally performed in 2006 and has now been revived by Bruno Ravella. It has, however, lost nothing over the years and the Guardian has called it: ‘One of the most intelligent and insightful staging’s of this work around.’ This is significant praise for an opera that has not always had an easy ride. For much of the nineteenth century, it was considered too immoral to stage and, early in the twentieth century, it was labeled by some as misogynistic.
Cosi Fan Tutte is a comedy of sexual manipulation, the plot of which provides plenty of scope for farce: The cynical Don Alfonso bets two young men, Ferrando and Guglielmo, that their respective fiancées cannot be trusted to remain faithful. There follows a series of devices and machinations involving disguise and elaborate deceit, ably supported by the sisters’ playful maid, Despina, with the aim of vindicating Alphonso’s view of women. “Cosi Fan Tutte” which the male leads sing after Alphonso has won the bet, roughly translates as “they’re all the same”, although Da Ponte preferred the subtitle “School for lovers”
Although Cosi has never achieved the acclaim of Figaro or Don Giovanni, it certainly contains some of Mozart’s most beautiful music and, this particular production is a visual delight.
Amongst the main characters, there really are no weak performances either in respect of singing or acting. Alphonso is played with a light touch by José Fardilha and, in rather different ways, expressing two distinct characters, Kirsten MacKinnon and Rachel Kelly both excel as the sisters, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, while the parts of their hapless fiancées are competently rendered by Bogdan Volkov and Ilya Kutyukhin. A wickedly lively portrayal of Despina by Ana Quintans completes the main line-up The Glyndebourne orchestra provided faultless accompaniment under the baton of Leo McFall.
Vicki Mortimer’s beautiful setting anchors the action in period Naples and contributes significantly to the lighthearted tone of the rendering of the opera.
If you’re starting to suffer from the grayness of an English autumn, this production could provide a shot of summer sunshine to lift the spirits.
You can catch Glyndebourne Opera on Tour in Woking (Cosi Fan Tutte and Barber of Seville) until Saturday 11th November before it moves on to Norwich (14-18 Nov.), Milton Keynes (21-25 Nov. and Plymouth (28 Nov. to 2 Dec.). Don’t miss this opportunity to see world class opera close to home.
Tickets cost from £21.90 to £92.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Glyndeboune Opera’s Cosi Fan Tutte is at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from 7-10 November 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/new-victoria-theatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7645.
New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6GQ