Steven Stead directs this purposeful revival of Matthew Warchus’s 2002 production, which places the classic comedy of ambiguity in an early twentieth century setting, with Laura Hopkins’s designs adding surrealist touches. The production’s sole flaw is to have jettisoned Mozart’s choruses without so much as a by your leave. That’s really not on in a major opera company.
The rest is intelligent and witty, especially as played by this classy cast. Gregory Turay’s Ferrando suffers from mottled tone but is attractively sung and acted. Mark Stone – whose addition to the company has proved a real boost – is a canny and likeable Guglielmo.
As their lovers, Cara O’Sullivan is funny and ebullient as Fiordiligi and also sings heroically – her Per pieta is a true highlight. Anne Marie Gibbons is equally precise and personable as Dorabella.
But it’s the two manipulators of this refined yet painful comedy of the human heart that win the most tricks. Robert Poulton’s savvy, seen-it-all Alfonso is a joy, while Lillian Watson remains the most stylish Despina around today. They and the rest of the cast see to it that much of Jeremy Sams’s clever translation bounces out into the auditorium.
The gifted young conductor Edward Gardner is at the helm. Though his tempi are occasionally on the fast side, which doesn’t always allow Mozart’s notes to register clearly, he maintains an exhilarating sense of momentum on this highly enjoyable musical journey.
Coliseum, London, May 26-June 24
- Matthew Warchus/Steven Stead
- English National Opera
- Cast includes
- Cara O’Sullivan, Anne Marie Gibbons, Lillian Watson, Gregory Turay, Mark Stone, Robert Poulton
- Running time
- 3hrs 15mins