One does not expect to go to the opera to find a huge wooden box being serenaded by a middle-aged Don, but this is what the audience will find when they see Cosi Fan Tutte. This opera straddles contemporaneity whilst keeping its nostalgia alive. It succeeds in producing a thrilling evening of scheming and heresy.
An opera in two acts, Cosi Fan Tutte tells the story of two young friends, Fernando (Nicholas Watts) and Guglielmo (Gavan Ring) who make a wager with the celibate philosopher Don Alfonso (William Dazeley) that their lovers will prove faithful when put to test. Don Alfonso then decides to prove otherwise, by telling their lovers, the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, that their significant others have left on active service without saying goodbye, thus leaving the sisters devastated. He then bribes the ladies’ maidservant to introduce two eligible foreigners (Fernando and Guglielmo in disguise) to the ladies under the pretense of amusement.
Initially, the women are outraged, but are subsequently won over when the two foreigners pretend to poison themselves, having been spurned by both sisters. Alfonso and the maidservant, Despina bring the couple together who finally decide to get married. In a scene charged with despair, Fernando and Guglielmo agree that all women are the same and will give in to infidelity. During the ceremony, the army returns and thinking that their long-lost lovers have returned, the sisters immediately spurn the foreigners again and hide all evidence of happiness. The foreigners leave and return dressed as Fernando and Guglielmo who find their lovers withholding, as their schemes unravel.
“The interior design is dynamic with skillfully painted walls showing the reflection and refraction of the camera’s lens”
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the production is the set design. The overall set resembles a camera obscura giving the proceedings on stage a new dimension. The interior design is dynamic with skillfully painted walls showing the reflection and refraction of the camera’s lens, with the props being Despina’s preferred mode of looking busy while eavesdropping. The set expands and retracts based on the demands of the scene, using a pulley system of sorts which is highly nostalgic and fits in with the theme very well.
While Cosi Fan Tutte is a visual delight, there is some room for improvement in the coordination between the orchestra and the singers. The musicians and singers, through no fault of their own, appeared to be drowning each other out. At certain points in the first act, the orchestra completely overwhelmed the dialogue, and in the concluding scene the pandemonium on stage was incoherent. The production team would be well advised to look into acoustics before putting on a show. Whilst the orchestra and cast were incredible on their own, there was some discord when they played together.
“While Cosi Fan Tutte is a visual delight, there is some room for improvement in the coordination between the orchestra and the singers”
The actors were fabulous, with Maire Flavin and Helen Sherman who play Fiordiligi and Dorabella respectively, harmonising their crystal clear high notes perfectly. The other highlight of the night was Ellie Laugharne’s performance as the maidservant Despina, whilst the male members of the cast provided a beautiful auditory experience as well.
Although the production was thoroughly enjoyable, the audience were at times, left struggling to understand what was being said on stage. Perhaps later shows will have better coordination between the cast and the orchestra.
Image: Theatre Royal website
‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ is running at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham until Friday 11th March. For more information and to book tickets, visit their website here