Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The new season at Covent Garden opened on September 10 with a revival of Jonathan Miller's modern clothes 1995 production of Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte. The worthy doctor not only directed but had a hand in the lighting and the designs. The set is spacious in off-white, even the furniture, with plenty of cushions to flop on; no daylight, no Naples. This production is worthy of Mozart. Miller never fidgets (as so many produces do in comedy); some numbers contain movement (memorably Fiordiligi's up and down aria, Come Scoglio) but others are sung belessedly fairly still. The two lovers go to war in camouflage army gear, returning kitted out as 'rollers' (or is it 'rockers').

Max Loppert has written that Cosi is the cruellest opera plot but I think audiences mostly accept it as a study in artificiality. But Mozart's score has a life of its own, setting comic words and plot with a depth of tenderness, passion and sensibility that is unique; emotions run deep. We are involved with the characters (as we never are in Rossini, masterly though the music is). This is our world as Mozart draws us into his.

Tom Allen is Don Alfonso, arch manipulator, suave, naughty but nice, Italian to the tips of his fingers (just as recently his hands seem to speak French in La Fille du Regiment). What a master is Sir Thomas, singing well too.

It took a little time to work out which was Fioridiligi, which Dorabella, so sisterly did they look and sing. Swedish Maria Bengtsson was the former, Jurgita Adamonyte from Latvia the latter, two clear-voiced miscreants with charm. Pavel Breslik (Slovak) sang a good Ferrando though his voice is not very tenorish; French baritone Stephane Degout was a melliflous Guglielmo. The whole cast excelled in their comedy so that we all had a good evening, not the least Welsh Rebecca Evans, a nimble voiced Despina.

German Thomas Hengelbrock made an auspicious conducting debut in the house.

The performance was telecast live to over 200 cinemas on the Continent so Europe was a happy place that night. I have a theory that the first Mozart opera one sees becomes one's favourite. Mine was/is Cosi, what was yours? and do you agree?

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