Cosi fan tutte, Glyndebourne, review: Don Alfonso is oddly colourless in this blissfully restrained revival

Riccardo Minasi conducts the period-instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with great sensitivity to mood and pace in Nicholas Hytner’s classic production of Mozart’s comic opera

Michael Church
Tuesday 06 July 2021 12:56
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<p> Alessandro Corbelli as Don Alfonso and  Hera Hyesang Park as Despina in ‘Cosi fan tutte’ at Glyndebourne</p>

Alessandro Corbelli as Don Alfonso and Hera Hyesang Park as Despina in ‘Cosi fan tutte’ at Glyndebourne

What makes a classic production? Clarity and simplicity. And the longevity of Nicholas Hytner’s Glyndebourne production of Cosi fan tutte, which is still packing them in after fifteen years, is a perfect case in point. What glows most in the memory is the look of the thing, with Vicki Mortimer’s cleanly rectilinear marble set bathed in Paule Constable’s warm Mediterranean light, and with its suggestive vista of a blue sea-and-sky distance.

But what strikes me each time I see it is the restraint in the direction; the blissful lack of look-at-me busyness that often mars the work of young directors trying to make their mark. This time round, under Simon Iorio’s revival direction, there is even more restraint than usual, thanks to the need for social distancing. But only at one point: when Don Alfonso mimes an invitation to dance with his hand hovering six inches over the hand of the character he is leading across the stage it does seem a mite awkward.

There is one unexpected weak link in the line-up, in the form of Alessandro Corbelli in the part of Don Alfonso. This fine Italian farceur is normally the focal point of any show, but here his characterisation is understated and oddly colourless. He simply hasn’t found the key to the character. I longed for the commanding brilliance that Thomas Allen brought to this part at Covent Garden in 2019, as he genially pulled the strings on which the hapless young lovers are forced to dance.

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