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Cosi Fan Tutte review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘playful and thought-provoking’

Serena Gamberoni in Cosi Fan Tutte at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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First seen in 2016, Jan Philipp Gloger’s production of Mozart’s provocatively titled Cosi Fan Tutte (This is How All Women Behave) plays games not only with the audience – as the piece does – but also with the comedy itself.

The show appears to begin at the end, with the (apparent) cast delivering a hilarious parody of an operatic curtain call during the overture; but this is deceptive, because four of the real cast are actually sitting in the audience right by the proscenium, applauding wildly before going on stage and becoming involved in the action.

Gloger mixes up visual styles and periods, with numerous references to other genres – the scene where Ferrando and Guglielmo are supposedly going off to war has a distinct suggestion of Brief Encounter – but especially to theatre and its artificiality. The result is a clever and entertaining reworking of a familiar but endlessly fascinating comedy.

The cast enter into the complexity of the concept with commitment, though vocally they’re an uneven group.
Serena Malfi’s Dorabella is the most polished. Paolo Fanale shows a promising tenor as Ferrando and Salome Jicia is a confident Fiordiligi, with all the notes in place.

Though short on tone these days, Thomas Allen delivers an acting masterclass as Don Alfonso. Gyula Orendt is an expert Guglielmo.

Making his Royal Opera debut is conductor Stefano Montanari, who leaves a mixed impression. There’s some showing off in his undeniably witty fortepiano continuo contributions, and he’s often too fast for the singers, occasionally leaving them stranded; but the orchestra is on excellent form.

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A mixed performance of Jan Philipp Gloger’s playful and thought-provoking production