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A CurtainUp London Review
Così Fan Tutte
The sets use a photographic moving backdrop so that, in the first scene, at the rear a crowded café is animated but curiously in sepia tones, the colour destroying any sense of photo realism. In later scenes the waves lap from the Mediterranean through the windows and surprisingly in the last scene, the orchestra is filmed as a backdrop while in front we see the real orchestra in the pit. For all this effort, the finished effects are not really ground breaking.
The premise of the plot of Così Fan Tutte is that an old roué Don Alfonso (Steven Page), (he is described as an old philosopher which must be a euphemism for something else), bets two young men Guglielmo (Liam Bonner) and Ferrando (Thomas Glenn) that their fiancées will be unfaithful, given the opportunity. Don Alfonso, as agent provocateur and misogynist, then employs the two young men against their own desired outcome by pretending to the girls Fiordiligi (Susan Gritton) and Dorabella (Fiona Murphy) that their men are leaving for war. Don Alfonso further brings the men back in disguise with new haircuts, moustaches and some dodgy Eastern European outfits. They declare their suit, try to woo the girls with gifts of net curtains and after being spurned, pretend to take poison for love in order to win their affection. The artful maid Despina (Sophie Bevan) is in league with Don Alfonso, she is receptive to bribery, helps to convince the girls that it is ok to play around and disguised as a doctor, revives the poisoned men. Dorabella starts to cave in to her sister's fiancé the disguised Guglielmo and Fiordiligi is left refusing to transfer her affections but eventually she too seems likely to succumb. However Fiordiligi's answer is for the girls disguised as youths to go off to war in search of their original men.
I very much liked the modern English translation of the libretto from Martin Fitzpatrick. It's light and frothy and delivers the excessively silly declarations, "I'm fainting" says one, "I'm dying" says the other. Fiordiligi says of the persistent suitor, "As he blushes and beseeches, I'll match him sigh for sigh." As Fiordiligi, Susan Gritton's coloratura soprano voice is lovely with some showy notes that display her range. Sophie Bevan as Despina the maid seems brighter than her mistresses and is in the thick of the mischief making. Of the boys, I preferred Thomas Glenn's tenor singing but Steven Page's deep register as Don Alfonso was effective although some of his part is spoken to music.
The London Coliseum is a lovely venue for this very accessible Mozart comic opera – so sorry Mr Kiarostami missed it.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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