The Royal Opera – Così fan tutte

Così fan tutte – Opera buffa in two acts to a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte [Sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Ferrando – Matthew Polenzani
Guglielmo – Lorenzo Regazzo
Don Alfonso – Sir Thomas Allen
Fiordiligi – Dorothea Röschmann
Dorabella – Elīna Garanča
Despina – Rebecca Evans

The Royal Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sir Colin Davis

Jonathan Miller – Director
Jonathan Miller with Tim Blazdell, Andrew Jameson, Colin Maxwell, Catherine Smith & Anthony Waterman – Set designs
Jonathan Miller and John Charlton – Lighting

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 17 July, 2007
Venue: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

It’s not often you get two reviews of a production hailing from the same press outlet, and in broad terms this reviewer is in agreement with the assessment of his colleague Kevin Rogers who reviewed the first night. However, first nights are often more edgy and less relaxed affairs than performances later in the run and this second performance gave a hint of that.

Jonathan Miller’s production (first seen at the Royal Opera House in 1995) has had many successful revivals and casts and been continually tweaked to be ‘updated’ over that period. Some of the tics irritate on repeated viewing, particularly the over-reliance on phone and other technology as plot devices. However, I still like the presence of the mirror in which all the characters continue to look at themselves during the course of the drama. This emphasis on how the protagonists all check to see how they appear, both to themselves and others, continually reminds that at many levels the characters are aware that appearances can be deceptive. Dorothea Röschmann as Fiordiligi is certainly in command of the vocal range required for this difficult role, although her top was less secure and she seemed to need quite a lot of attack in the higher reaches. ‘Per pietà’ was marvellously and introspectively sung, even if the top note of the final upward arpeggio in the rondo deserted her. Her mellow, rather than bright, tones suit the seriousness of this character well.

The highlight of this evening was the short exchange between Ferrando and Fiordiligi just before the accompanied recitative that precedes that aria. Here, Colin Davis held back a little, and the marvellous playing of the strings stressed the mournfulness of the accompaniment that made one register how troubled Fiordiligi is emotionally, and also how taken aback Ferrando was at the effect his ‘jokey’ advances were having. It was a telling moment that made one sit up and wonder why this passage had never made such an impact before. Moments like that are treasurable and make you realise Mozart’s genius.

Sir Colin has what might now be considered a rather traditional way with the score, especially when one considers that ‘period instrument’ performances are more the norm these days. Davis reminds that traditions are important and continues to reveals facets lost in the zeal to produce something different.

Thomas Allen’s Don Alfonso has been the lynchpin of this production since it opened and although there have been other interpreters he is almost part of the scenery (in the right sense). His understanding of the role is so complete, but that also fits with the worldly experience of the character. Although one would never really consider that the cynical Don Alfonso should be the central character of ‘Cosi’, it sort of works when Allen plays it. His voice is perhaps dryer and less resonant than of old – but who cares when he lavishes so much care on integrating words and music and drama. Once again tradition and experience can be a good thing, and I’m sure the younger members of the cast must have learnt a lot from him.

Rebecca Evans is an attractive Despina, steering a middle path away from an overly fluffy soubrette interpretation and a overly cynical approach as well. She always sings cleanly and musically and her interaction with Allen’s Alfonso is well judged. The others all sang well on this performance. Matthew Polenzani’s Ferrnado sounded a little tired perhaps but was a good contrast to Regazzo’s Gugliemo. Elïna Garanèa’s lushly sung Dorabella was a treat and she is certainly more than ‘the other sister’. I hope we hear and see more of her, even though I expect she will not remain singing the Mozart repertory for long. So, a balanced and provoking revival – how it helps when the original director returns to revive their shows!

  • Performances on July 20 (at 7 p.m.) & 22 (at 3 p.m.)
  • Box office: 020 7304 4000
  • Royal Opera

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