Così fan tutte [sung in Italian]
Fiordiligi Anna Leese
Dorabella Martina Welschenbach
Ferrando Thomas Walker
Guglielmo Andrew Conley
Despina Silvia Moi
Don Alfoso George Matheakakis
Orchestra & Chorus of the Benjamin Britten International Opera School (Royal College of Music)
Ian Judge director
Alison Nalder designer
Mark Doubleday lighting
Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: 25 June, 2005
Venue: Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
This production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, by the Benjamin Britten International Opera School, boasted not only some excellent, if occasionally uneven, singing, acting and orchestral playing, but a handsome set and colourful, elegant costumes. The beige, blues and pinks of the Dior clad inhabitants offset the creams, ochres and Cerulean blue backdrop of what appeared to be a 1950s Saint Tropez, while an intelligent use of props and some fine directing from Ian Judge created a discreet spatial analogue to Mozart’s music. Mirrors, cups of coffee being overloaded with sugar and bizarre medical devices became genuine emotional indexes; camp was skilfully avoided. The lighting shouted ‘sun drenched’ for the most part, becoming more subdued for evenings and for the wonderful thunderstorm scene (where couples stood motionless with umbrellas as the principals moved and sang among them in a Hollywood musical parody) and showed both sets and costumes off to great advantage.
The singing and acting were impressive, though not flawless; in particular, there were moments where singer and orchestra were not quite in sync. New Zealander Anna Leese (Fiordiligi) coped with her part’s wide tessitura admirably, despite the occasional breathlessness and some loss of power at the bottom end of her range. Martina Welschenbach (Dorabella) also exhibited signs of fatigue in places; in addition, her arias came across as more prosaic than Leese’s, despite the comparative levity of her character’s nature.
Silvia Moi as Despina was dramatically disappointing, although her comic turns were well received. Tenors Thomas Walker and Andrew Conley complemented each other both vocally and dramatically, while George Matheakakis, looking suave and distinguished with a grey-streaked beard, gave an understated yet charismatic account of Don Alfonso. The chorus sounded full and resonant despite its modest size.
The orchestral playing, too, was good – despite the occasional problem with intonation; Michael Rosewell’s conducting was brisk and to the point – maybe too brisk in some instances, leaving many passages, particularly those where winds predominated, sounding a little rushed. But orchestra and conductor really hit their stride towards the end of the first act, generating a real sense of excitement.
All in all, this was a very successful opening night; the aforementioned problems, together with some articles of costume not behaving themselves, amounted only to minor blemishes. Even a malfunctioning surtitle machine could not detract from what is a major achievement for all concerned.
- This is a double-cast production; this cast is heard again on 29 June and the other cast is 27 June and 1 July. All performances begin at 7 o’clock
- 020 7589 3643
- Royal College of Music