Review: Cosi Fan Tutte at the Grand Opera House

Jane Hardy

ADELE Thomas's 1920s set Northern Ireland Opera production of one of Mozart's most popular operas at the Grand Opera House could easily be renamed Cosi fan Tutte Fruity.

The sauciness was clear from the start. The tone was indicated from the nicely played overture by the Ulster Orchestra under conductor Nicholas Chalmers, as Despina (excellent Aoife Miskelly) provided a Hoover continuo.

The first two acts then spun along with decent brio. Musically, the score is sublime Mozart but vocally, we maybe didn't always get quite the same firepower as when Northern Ireland Opera did Don Giovanni a couple of seasons back.

Of course, this is also something of a problem opera because of a hovering sense of misogyny. The female leads - poor Dorabella and Fiordiligi - are subjected to a vile test of fidelity and run ragged with their original lovers' swapping role play as the men move from fetching red plumed soldiers' helmets to Albanian headgear.

It really isn't fair, as the aria about not expecting fidelity from soldiers has it. Whether making the lively chorus of flappers do suggestive congas front of stage while our principals were getting very emotional always worked was debatable.

But there were hilarious moments, notably the slapstick with a bottle when the women and Despina discuss their love lives and Despina’s Chaplin-style turn as the magnetic doctor. There were decent emotional moments too.

The famous Per Pieta aria - Cosi was performed in Italian (a good choice although the surtitles stuttered) - got a pretty good outing from Kiandra Howarth’s Fiordiligi.

Cosi fan Tutte was too risque for the 19th century, and was bowdlerised. We aren't bothered but in the second half the endless boozy, leg-over references - even though it's about seduction and point scoring - undermined the real suffering a bit. But the male roles of Ferrando and Guiglielmo, in all their swagger, were well conveyed by Sam Furness and Samuel Dale Johnson.

Ultimately, though, this grown up opera is about love, identity, trust and the whole shebang and provided food for thought.

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