Così fan tutte, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2012Posted on 17 June 2012
This was a second hit for Opera Holland Park this season — a great team performance bringing Così fan tutte fully to life. Fine eighteenth century designs by Alex Eales, plus a cheerful sunny set in the centre of the stage, were accompanied by the chorus as an on-stage audience, and bright lighting design by Colin Grenfell that showed surprising changes at the end.
This production by Harry Fehr gets to grips with the wittiness of Mozart’s opera by being perfectly serious, but with a lightness of touch. The performers interacted perfectly with one another, the singing was a delight, and there was plenty of drama, from Dorabella baring her cleavage in lamentation during the early quintet in Act I, to Fiordiligi rolling on the floor in emotional agony after her Per pieta in Act II.
This opera runs a fair gamut of emotions, from the lovely trio Soave sia il vento, wishing gentle winds for the young men who have been unexpectedly called away for military duty, to those moments of musical discord that are left unresolved. Elizabeth Llewellyn was terrific as Fiordiligi, first coming into her own in Act I when she orders the lovers, disguised as Turks, out of the house, after which the others calm her down, fanning her with napkins, and she launches into Come scoglio immoto resta. Defiantly confirming that nothing can change her devotion, she showed real power, particularly on the top notes. Julia Riley as Dorabella sang beautifully and her acting was just as convincing in this female role as I have seen her in travesti roles. Joana Seara as the maid Despina was a delight, immediately brightening things up on stage with her charmingly resentful Che vita maladetta (What a cursed life). Her subsequent aria casting aspersions on the faithfulness of men and soldiers was very well done, and in her Una donna a quindici anni at the start of Act II, when she says that a fifteen year old girl should know the wiles of love, she accompanied her words with suitably coquettish gestures.
Nicholas Garrett, who sang Don Giovanni at Holland Park two years ago, was a fine Don Alfonso, relishing the game he plays with the two young men, and his scheming with Despina. Dawid Kimberg sang well as Guglielmo, and his duet with Julia Riley as Dorabella in Act II was terrific. Andrew Staples as Ferrando delivered a beautiful Un’aura amorosa in Act I, and became suitably upset in Act II as he built up the emotion during In qual fiero contrasto, lamenting the turmoil in his own thoughts.
Thomas Kemp, conducting the City of London Sinfonia, gave fine support to the singers, letting the music breathe, and allowing Harry Fehr’s production to work its magic.
Performances continue until July 7 — click here for details, and note that evening performances start at 7:15.