Glyndebourne's Mozart "hip-hop-era" is the latest project from the most imaginative opera-education department in the country, whose previous exploits include productions in cathedrals and shopping malls, and a sequence of youth operas that was snapped up by Channel 4.
The reworking of Cosi Fan Tutte as School 4 Lovers is a collaboration between Britain's classiest opera house and the Finnish National Opera, and draws on from conservatoires, acting schools, and the hip-hop and rap community, as well as teenage dancers and musicians from local schools.
The curtain rises on a snazzy urban landscape lit in midnight blue, with an orchestra banked up at one side to leave a big space clear for action. That space is immediately filled with 13-year-old clubbers energetically doing their thing. Freddie and Liam (aka Ferrando and Guglielmo) emerge from the throng to boast about the fidelity of their respective girlfriends - Freddie's voice reflecting his operatic training, Liam's his origins at the Anna Scher acting school. It is clear that the musical marriage is going to be evenly balanced, with shards of Mozart underpinned by a thumping drum machine. The music promoter Donnie is played by the charismatic Paradise, who sets up exactly the right buzz of expectation, as does Stephen Plaice's raunchy vernacular libretto.
The overwhelmingly teenage audience was not disappointed. They loved the dance routines that periodically stopped the action, but they also liked those moments when Mozart came through with unadulterated clarity. Jonathan Gill and Charlie "The Baptist" Parker, whose deft arrangements lay electronic effects under orchestral ones, have the wisdom to let Mozart articulate the drama's peaks.
This was the ideal opera for the occasion. Da Ponte's original libretto is really teenage stuff - about fidelity, jealousy, vanity, and lust - but it grabs us all, at whatever age, because we are all still teenagers at heart. Glyndebourne's reworking goes predictably big on the lust part, with Liam and Bella giving each other an enthusiastically thorough sexual work-out, and the sassy Natasha Seale bringing a whiff of Lisa Minnelli to the role of Despina.
This show will now go to Helsinki and Tallinn, but certainly deserves a further life in Britain. My teenage neighbour liked the Mozart bits, but she loved the club stuff best of all.Reuse content