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S & H Opera Review

MOZART Cosi fan tutte Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Joao Fernandez & Alish Tynan, Claire Platt & Helen Withers, Adrian Dwyer & Rasmus Tofte-Hansen. Conductor: Clive Timms 28 February 2002 (PGW)


Just back from a whirlwind tour of prestigious productions in European opera houses, a slight apprehension that a college presentation of one of the most familiar operas in the canon might be anticlimactic proved unfounded. Cosi always engages emotions, especially when things start to fall apart in the second act. Clive Timms elicited creditable orchestral playing (far more assured than recently in Rossini) and kept things moving forward without over-pressing the singers.

Lindy Hume's staging (designer Nicky Shaw, lighting David Holmes) enhances the dramatic coherence and psychological depth of this complex work. It all takes place in a restaurant with its bar and garden and, though often very funny, did not descend into a boisterous romp, but allowed the disturbing undercurrents to weave their way through the whole production. The restaurant staff provided the chorus and the ensemble team-work was worthy of Glyndebourne.

Guildhall fields a double cast; we saw Joao Fernandez (a properly sceptical Don Alfonso) plotting with Despina (Alish Tynan), the manageress of the restaurant where he was a regular diner. Her assumptions of the roles of doctor, with an updated treatment, and later as a lawyer who actually sang the marriage ceremony instead of just wheezing through it asthmatically, were very convincing. So were the disguises and assumed body language of Adrian Dwyer & Rasmus Tofte-Hansen as prospective lovers on the side, and they both sang persuasively too. Claire Platt & Helen Withers were well matched as a very different pair of girls, vocally and physically, making it appropriate that they chose the 'others' for their fling. Both were impressive in their major arias, and indeed all the protagonists presented themselves as well trained singers, ready for professional careers, and must be congratulated for their clear enunciation of Jeremy Sams' pithy translation. The immediacy of being able to follow every twist of the plot more than compensated for the loss of the more mellifluous original Italian.

The total destruction of ideals implied in Cosi was evaded, creating a 'feel good' factor for the audience, the final ambiguities and dilemmas given clear signposts to differing possible resolutions, instead of sinking into a morass of hopeless despondency as in the Opera Factory production set on a beach, or the uncomfortable Jurgen Flimm/Oliver Widmer/ Bartoli production in Zurich , staged in a lecture room and conducted with fierce single-mindedness by Harnoncourt. This can be recommended on DVD (Arthaus 100 112). No, there is no reason ever to tire of Cosi fan tutte!

Peter Grahame Woolf


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