COSÌ FAN TUTTE
music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte translated by Jeremy Sams.
London Coliseum St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ES In rep to 6 July 2014.
7pm 22, 24, 30 May, 2, 4, 6, 13, 19 June, 2, 4 July.
3pm 6 July.
BSL Signed 19 June.
Runs 3hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7845 9300.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 May.
Finely sung and played, with a production that relocates but does not undermine.
I’ve long longed to translate this title as ‘They’re all at it’, and Phelim McDermott’s new English National Opera production might be the time to go for a measure of crudity. Bye-bye wigs, gowns and elegance. Welcome to funfair vulgarity, inventively visualised by designer Tom Pye; Blackpool, England, or Coney Island, New York, in that useful decade the 1950s, the last time conservative morality can be taken as read.
Holiday acquaintances and freedoms bring-on the bet in which Don Alfonso persuades young Gugliemo and Ferrando to test their lovers’ fidelity. And the men’s return in disguise results in a chalet-hopping journey leading ever-deeper into emotional complexity as it moves outdoors, deeper into the disorienting world of the funfair.
Don Alfonso’s stratagem acquires unexpectedly positive results as both women discover their emotional complexities. The comparatively modern setting moves beyond the garishness with which even the opera’s title is displayed, and the shabby comfort of the fags-and-booze bar where the bet is laid, to the nocturnal Pleasure Garden where one intense duet is played-out amid a surround of hoardings advertising weird and wonderful physicality from various sideshows.
And where Fiordiligi (as with any pair of friends, differences become apparent on closer acquaintance, and she has the more complex personality) sings her finest aria afloat on a giant ride, the tawdry surrounds taking on a temporary elegance.
Yet all this doesn’t bring Mozart’s music down to earthiness. What you see and hear run parallel and make the point that emotional depth exists throughout society. Just as the title’s implied judgment on women could, in this setting, rebound on the men who put them to the test.
Only the Overture’s reduced to background music, as a parade of sideshow characters emerge from a treasure-chest. Even here, though, McDermott has a point to make. Everyone carries a one-word placard with the kind of language opera likes to describe itself – Passion, Intrigue, Love – before reversing the cards to show opera as described in serious academic tomes, and jumbling the lot to form pseudo-sentences. It’s funny, original and has serious overtones. Like the production that follows.
Fiordiligi: Kate Valentine.
Dorabella: Christine Rice.
Gugliemo: Marcus Farnworth.
Ferrando: Randall Bills.
Despina: Mary Bevan.
Don Alfonso: Roderick Williams.
Skills Ensemble: Karen Anderson Laird, Clem, Leah Debrincat, Charlie Folorunsho, Erin Jameson, Katey Michelle Jazz aka Bambi Blue, Max Laird, Jason la Shard, Pasha Lodhi, Mike McCallum, Sally Reeve, The Vivid Angel.
Director: Phelim McDermott.
Conductor: Ryan Wigglesworth.
Chorus Master: Genevieve Ellis.
Orchestra Leader: Janice Graham.
Designer: Tom Pye.
Lighting: Paule Constable.
Movement: Rachel Lopez de la Nieta.
Assistant conductor: Murray Hipkin.
Assistant designers: Ben Austin, Ben Gerlis, Nadia Oh.
Costume: Laura Hopkins.
This new production is in collaboration with Improbable Theatre, and is a co-production with theMetropolitan Opera New York.
It is supported by Lionel Wernick.
The first performance of Così Fan Tutte was at the Burgtheater Vienna on 26 January 1790.
The first UK performance was at His Majuexty’s Theatre London on 9 May 1811.
The first performance of this production was at the London Coliseum on 16 May 2014.