Monday, 24 September 2018

Cosi night out was otherworldly

Garsington Opera’s Wormsley Estate home, revisited after a year’s break, had lost none of its charm.

Garsington Opera’s Wormsley Estate home, revisited after a year’s break, had lost none of its charm.

The cricket pitch — probably the most perfect and remote in the entire cricketing world — and the adjacent lake and opera house exude other-worldliness.

And this is what best describes last Sunday’s production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Nature also played a part as the setting sun’s rays illuminated the stage for all of Act I.

Mozart’s original setting of Naples with Vesuvius in the background was replaced by a wedding party — the women in ballet-style dresses and Despina (Lesley Garrett) strutting about in heels and skirt suit.

Sexy dances set the tone for the duration, plunging us headlong into the arcane and outrageous.



With its intended air of unreality, the nuptial scene also symbolised an idealised expression of love, while the timelessness underscored the perception that the principles of love and fidelity are eternal.

Ironically, as we discover, the sweetness of perfect love can quickly turn sour.

Two sisters and their suitors face disruptive interference from Don Alphonso (Neal Davies) and Despina.

In response to a wager, the two men pretend to go to war, dressed outlandishly in modern combat gear, and depart in an open-top car sporting “Alla guerra” (instead of “Just married”).

They then resurface in ludicrous disguises, riding a tandem, to test their lovers’ fidelity. A truly hilarious sequence.

The dénouement unfolds in similar vein until one pair gets carried away with jealousy and recriminations lead to an unexpectedly bitter ending.

Artistic director Douglas Boyd believes humour can reveal layers of unsuspected pain. The test is how far to take it. Here, on balance, it erred in favour of injecting much-needed mirth into an implausible saga of seduction and deceit. Farce apart, the standard of singing was outstanding, with orchestral accompaniment to match. Horns, flutes and bassoons were especially impressive at critical moments.

Mozart’s vocal scoring was a feast of glorious solos, duets, quartets and sextets, but remarkably few choruses.

While the principals all had exceptional voices, the tenor Robin Tritschler (Ferrando) and soprano Andreea Soare (Fordliligi) stood out as the audience’s deserved favourites.

Dorabella (Kathryn Rudge) and Gugliemo (Ashley Riches) were excellent in support, and Lesley Garrett and Neal Davies did superbly well in gluing the crazy scenes together.

In short, a zany, yet highly polished and musically-satisfying performance.

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