Scottish Opera: Cosi Fan Tutte
Empire Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, 4 June 2009
MENTIONING that I was going to see this, somebody said, “The trouble with ‘Cosi’ is the plot is so complicated”. Not in the hands of David McVicar and Scottish Opera, it isn’t; the cast’s excellent acting skills often rendered the surtitles redundant in this comedy of deceit.
Cynical, worldweary Don Alfonso, sung and acted to perfection by Peter Savidge, does not believe in fidelity, and cajoles two idealistic young officers, Ferrando (Joel Prieto) and Guigelmo (Ville Rusanen), to put their fiancees Dorabella (Caitlin Huldcup) and Fiordiligi (Violet Noorduyn) to the test by disguising themselves as Albanians (presumably shorthand for dashing young hotheads in Mozart’s Vienna) and attempting to seduce them.
Alfonso bribes the sisters’ maid, Despina (Marie McLaughlin), to assist him in his dastardly plan and keeps stepping up the pressure on the unfortunate girls. With the cards so stacked against them it is no wonder that despite an initially fervent resistance they eventually prove him right; women – shock! horror! – can be as fickle as men.
Alfonso wins the bet, and the girls end up with each other’s fiances. It’s the sort of romp dependent on the suspension of disbelief which everyone from Boccaccio to Shakespeare to Gilbert & Sullivan to Hollywood screenwriters has had fun with, and Scottish Opera are no exception.
Relegating the chorus to the boxes on either side of the stage resulted in a coup de theatre when they first stood and sang, and left the stage clear for the sweeping lines of Yannis Thavoris’ sets to create maximum impact, slightly marred when a piece of Act 2’s moonlit garden was lowered prematurely from the flies to dangle, perplexingly, over the Bay of Naples in Act 1.
The action has been moved forward to the end of the 19th century, as Scottish Ballet did for their recent Sleeping Beauty, a period which is foreshadowed for us by the knowledge of what is to come – the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Age of the Machine and universal suffrage. It makes so much sense for Cosi fan tutte to be set towards the end of the Age of Innocence, and Tanya McCullin’s costumes, while not desirably lush as her lavish gowns for La Traviata [they saved lavish for Manon - Ed.], were suitably evocative.
The four young principals acquitted themselves with distinction. Joel Prieto and Violet Noorduyn had perhaps a slight edge on their partners for richness and strength of voice but it was a close-run thing. Marie McLaughlin threw herself into the role of Despina like a latterday Elsie Tanner, rolling up her skirts, slapping her thighs and, from time to time, her fellow singers, to the continuing delight of the audience.
In the ensemble work, particularly at close of each act in “Ah che tutta in un momento” and “Fate presto, o caro amici”, the company’s voices were entwined in a beautifully balanced bouquet. Another treat for all the senses from Scottish Opera.
© Jennie Macfie, 2009