Cosi fan tutte, Coliseum, London
Wednesday 03 June 2009
In the first few minutes of Mozart's Così fan tutte, Don Alfonso turns to the audience and says: "What a palaver. I thought I was in an opera!" You had better believe it: an 18th-century opera, in 18th-century clothes, behaving the way 18th-century opera used to behave. The trouble with Abbas Kiarostami's staging (and it won't have helped that the man himself wasn't around to ease its passage into London) is that it asks us to forget everything that's happened in opera over the past couple of decades and view it from a position of innocent fascination. The great Iranian film director has never directed opera before and one has to wonder how much of it he has seen. This terminally bland rendering (put creakily through its paces by associate director Elaine Tyler-Hall) strikes me as the work of someone who – in operatic terms at least – doesn't get out much.
Essentially, we can no longer view Così from an 18th-century perspective. This audacious piece demands more from a director than respect; it demands wit, social awareness, and a healthy degree of scepticism. It isn't an innocent piece – it's a devilishly knowing one. And it takes more than a couple of filmed backdrops to hint at the reality of our 2009 perspective. In the opening scene modern-day occupants of a sidewalk café appear to look on in amazement at the goings-on on stage; and a boat appears to carry off our two anti-heroes while we share their fiancées' perspective and watch them waving from the quarter-deck. There's a Forrest Gump conceit about these "superimpositions", but everything on stage is predictable and overworked.
You can, however, add at least another star to the two above for the sterling efforts of those on stage. Steven Page brings his immaculate enunciation to Don Alfonso's patter; Sophie Bevan's splendidly sung Despina is much more than a rebellious comic turn; and Thomas Glenn has the honesty, if not the sustained vocal rapture, for Ferrando's most heartfelt moments. But the musical and emotional highlight of the evening is Susan Gritton's highly charged account of the aria "Per pieta", which is sung with the meaningful intensity of a truly international singer. Conductor Stefan Klingele's unremarkable account of the great score is notable more for its virility than its sensuousness. But at least that score is indestructible.
In repertory to 5 July (0870 145 0200)
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 10 ways we damage our teeth – without realising
- 2 Fifa corruption arrests: Nike reported to be 'multinational sportswear company' at centre of bribery claims over Brazil shirt deal
- 3 Facebook Messenger sends 'creepily' precise location data, as revealed by Marauders Map Chrome extension
- 4 Photo of wedding guest proposing to girlfriend in front of bride and groom goes viral
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: it's just gravity — not a Mexican demon being summoned
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
ASAP Rocky gives nauseating response to explicit Rita Ora rap: 'I'm not saying she's a terrible person'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'