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Cosi Fan Tutte review at Grand Opera House, Belfast – ‘a handsome production’

Kiandra Howarth and Heather Lowe in Cosi fan Tutte at Grand Opera House, Belfast

The opera buffa Cosi Fan Tutte contains some of Mozart’s most glorious arias and orchestrations, but Da Ponte’s libretto, whose title translates as “all women are like that”, has frequently been accused of misogyny and double standards.

Director Adele Thomas, here making her opera debut for Northern Ireland Opera, chooses not to see it that way. Her fun-filled, Italian-sung production unfolds in 1920s America, handsomely captured by Hannah Clark’s art deco hotel set and inhabited by an assortment of stylish flappers and raffish consorts redolent of silent movie stars. The naivete and youthful idealism of two slightly gormless couples Ferrando (Sam Furness) and Dorabella (Heather Lowe), Guglielmo (Samuel Dale Johnson) and Fiordiligi (Kiandra Howarth) are held up for comparison with middle aged cynicism in the form of the housemaid Despina and the wordly Don Alfonso, played with suave sophistication by John Molloy.

In making merry with the plot’s false identities and partner swopping, Thomas opts for a fast-paced comedic approach, which, at times, reduces the sublime music to background sound. Belfast soprano Aoife Miskelly is an engaging Despina, showing impressive physicality and fine vocal precision in switching roles between boozy wench and Chaplinesque doctor and notary.

The performances of the star-struck lovers are at their most effective in reflective sections, where their vocal excellence is allowed to shine through unhindered.  But the somewhat overworked slapstick cannot disguise the queasy moral conclusion that all women are faithless while men are at liberty to betray friends and sweethearts simply because they can.

Verdict
A handsome, well sung production in which the slapstick comedy threatens to swamp Mozart’s sublime music

Production

Production
Cosi Fan Tutte
Venue
Grand Opera House
City
Belfast
Starts
November 17, 2017
Ends
November 19, 2017
Press night
November 17, 2017
Librettist
Lorenzo Da Ponte
Composer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Director
Adele Thomas
Conductor
Nicholas Chalmers
Set
Hannah Clark 
Lighting
Kevin Treacy
Stage manager
Ray Bingle
Production manager
Patrick McLaughlin
Cast includes
Sam Furness, Kiandra Howarth, Samuel Dale Johnson, Heather Lowe, Aoife Miskelly, John Molloy
Producer
Northern Ireland Opera
Running time
3hrs