Cosi Fan Tutte/Cosi at the King’s Head Theatre, London – ‘a satisfying double-bill’
Once renowned for its boutique operas, the self-styled Little Opera House aka the King’s Head hasn’t actually staged so much as an aria for nearly two years now. So while this reworking of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte sees a welcome return to form, the real coup de theatre is performing it alongside Louis Nowra’s black comedy Cosi.
Poles apart stylistically, Cosi inevitably draws on Mozart for its themes as a disparate group of mental hospital patients attempt to stage the opera in a burned out theatre. Opera director Paul Higgins stages his version however, within the equally neurotic world of reality television complete with diary room meltdowns and manipulative editors. It takes a while to adjust to Higgins’ adaptation but thanks to some exceptional voices, notably Stephanie Edward’s Fiordiligi and Jevan McAuley as Guglielmo, the concept substantiates the stereotypes and misogyny rife in Da Ponte’s comic libretto.
If Fiordiligi and Dorabella are marginalised by gender then the characters of Nowra’s Cosi are marginalised by their mental disorder. Set against a backdrop of social upheaval in urban Australia, the sexual implications of Mozart’s original are reflected in the age of free-love. Both productions are ensemble pieces but Mark Little stands out as the visionary obsessive Roy, recreating the role after appearing in the UK premiere in 2008.
Billing these two shows as companion pieces might well be marketing folly, as they have little in common save the source work, but however unlikely the pairing, each production is resourcefully staged, exceptionally cast and very entertaining.