Cosi fan tutte, English Touring Opera
Hackney Empire, London
Monday 04 March 2013
Embarking on its spring tour with a new production of Cosi fan tutte, ETO offers its audiences a typically provocative essay by the late Edward Said, as a way of intellectually limbering up.
Sor Said, the ‘aggressively inconsequential’ plot is a dazzling façade behind which Mozart hints at a ‘universe shorn of any redemptive or palliative scheme’. Said is one of many commentators and directors who have been tantalised by the inscrutability of this comic opera’s cruel symmetries, whereby bosom pals are manoeuvred into seducing each other’s girl-friend.
The music of the final scene may bowl sweetly along, but it gives absolutely no clue as to what the future holds for the protagonists: through the disposition of the characters on stage after the volcanic denouement, every production can indulge in its own particular speculation.
Director Paul Higgins has an unusual agenda for this production with its versatile single set by Samal Blak, and the first surprise is the casting of Richard Mosley-Evans as Don Alfonso. This Don seems more like a sturdy farmer than the sophisticated charmer whom Sir Tom Allen incarnates in Jonathan Miller’s Covent Garden production, and it takes a while to believe in him. On the other hand, by casting the brilliant Paula Sides as Despina – and by setting her up as the dominating intelligence - Higgins turns the drama’s conventional dynamic on its head.
We were warned that Sides was suffering from a whiplash injury, but you wouldn’t have known it from her charismatic first-night performance. With impeccable comic timing and a delicate beauty of vocal line, she became the drama’s diamond-hard heart, aristocratically out-classing Fiordiligi (Laura Mitchell) and Dorabella (Kitty Whately), who came across as silly teenagers rather than as the embattled and tormented creatures they really are. Meanwhile the men’s progress towards chastened maturity is underlined by the way they are transformed from silly coxcombs at the start to warily-knowing adults at the close.
Along the way there is much to admire and enjoy, with assured singing throughout, most notably the sweet tenor of Anthony Gregory as Ferrando; he and Toby Girling (Guglielmo) suffer searingly, and on their entry as ‘Albanians’ they effect a more convincing disguise than I have ever seen in this work. If the final emotional twists are too brisk to carry total conviction, the evening still passes pleasurably, and as though in a trice.
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 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 3 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 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
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
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
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
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
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
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote