Cosi Fan Tutte review at Opera Holland Park, London – ‘nuanced intelligence’
Just as Shakespeare has his problem plays, Mozart has Cosi Fan Tutte – one might translate the title as That’s What Women Do – which, as Robert Thicknesse’s thoughtful programme article reminds us, has been found deplorable by numerous distinguished observers, including Beethoven and Wagner, virtually ever since its 1790 premiere.
In Alyson Cummins’s delightful period set, carefully lit by Rory Beaton, Oliver Platt’s production shows us the scale of the disaster wreaked by Don Alfonso in his attempt to teach his young friends Ferrando and Guglielmo some hard emotional truths (at least as he sees them). The notoriously tricky ending is as convincing as any, though I’m not going to give it away.
And yet Platt has not lost his sense of humour, as some directors do with this piece; the laughter might be wry, but it’s there in all the right places.
In terms of individual performances, Mozart and Da Ponte’s naive young lovers are finely explored over the course of the show by four singers who lay all their ambiguities bare by means of expert vocalism. Eleanor Dennis’ complex Fiordiligi, Kitty Whately’s extrovert Dorabella, Nicholas Lester’s cocksure Guglielmo and Nick Pritchard’s sensitive Ferrando all sing their parts to a degree of excellence rarely encountered.
Equally focused are Sarah Tynan’s savvy, sassy Despina and Peter Coleman-Wright’s unashamedly manipulative Don Alfonso.
Occasionally Platt allows a little too much extraneous action – the three-handed opening doesn’t benefit from so many hyperactive extras on stage – but by and large such interventions are relatively harmless, the show’s nuanced intelligence serving the piece well.
Equally impressive is the playing of the City of London Sinfonia – having a great season thus far – under Dane Lam, whose way with Mozart is unerringly sound and who encourages the cast to indulge in some delicious vocal decoration.