English Touring Opera launches its spring tour with the complex Mozart/Da Ponte comedy whose title translates as All Women Behave Like That – but which is much more balanced in its criticism of men and women in love than that might suggest. The text comes over well in Jeremy Sams’ fluent translation.
The music is fluent, too, under conductor Holly Mathieson, with the Old Street Band offering a period-instrument approach in the pit: Mathieson maintains a lively pace, though some of the playing is untidy. There are quite a few cuts, including the entire role of the chorus.
Designer Oliver Townsend places Laura Attridge’s staging in Alexandria during British rule in Egypt: there’s a suggestion of Death on the Nile about the handsome sets and costumes.
This is a comedy, without doubt, but a serious one: there’s anger and anguish caused by the multiple betrayals that form the framework of the plot, and not enough of the pain comes over in a staging that goes for laughs and not much more: worse, some of the singers seem to know they’re being funny rather than letting the audience work that out.
Vocal performances rise to a good standard, with some high points along the way: Joanna Marie Skillett’s Fiordiligi punches her way valiantly through Come Scoglio, ably partnered by Martha Jones as her sister Dorabella. Thomas Elwin’s Ferrando makes more impact vocally than dramatically while Frederick Long is a lively Guglielmo. More complex are Stephan Loges’ Don Alfonso and especially Jenny Stafford’s vital Despina.