Liz Coggins is swept away by Opera North’s latest production


Liz Coggins is swept away by Opera North’s latest production
I was fortunate to see the first performance in 1982 of Cosi Fan Tutte. Not as a critic I hasten to add, but as part of my induction into the world of classical opera by my ex-opera singing mother.

“Always be careful when you are introducing young people or people of any age which work you take them to see”, she used to say. And she was right the wrong choice can put them off for life.

That particular production and the story particularly delighted me – unlike this revival which has literally blown me away.

Opera North have achieved an epicentre of excellence with their revival production of Cosi fan Tutte. They have pulled together the crème de la crème of production teams, musicians and singers to achieve one of their finest.

It’s a fast moving vibrant offering with the panache and speed of a West End Musical. And dare I say it, at the risk of being vilified by the specialist opera critics, it has a fabulous feel good factor about it. It makes you feel happy as you leave the theatre and wind your way homewards – and it’s not often an opera has this effect on its audience.

The story of Mozart’s opera starts with a bet between the cynical Don Alfonso and Ferrando and Guglielmo, two officers, that their respective fiancées will resist temptation and stay faithful to them if they were to go away. The fiancées Dorabella and Fiordiligi are coincidently sisters of totally different temperments and so a plot is hatched between the three men to test their fidelity.

A three hour opera to tell that story could easily become rather staid – but Tim Alberry’s production takes this opera to a higher level making it pure unadulterated fun.

The set moves like a pencil box with sliding doors – yet the ambience and décor remains in the correct period. With shades of grey (not I hasten to add 50!) and graphite and white furnishings it is pure delight on the eye and the dexterity of the set allows the action to move with the precision and speed of a Whitehall farce.

Tobias Hoheisel’s set is totally amazing as are his costumes. They all blend colour wise together and are pleasing on the eye. I loved the way the basic corset dress was adapted to ring changes to the costumes and what a stirring job the wig department do with three wig changes for the ladies in a very short time.

Conductor ,Jac van Steen puts passion and fire into Mozart’s score with an interpretation that borders on brilliance yet still retains the tenderness and romance of the piece.

William Gazeley puts a delightful new spin on the character of Don Alfonso, usually portrayed as a dusty, fusty elderly man. Gazeley gives him the credibility of “being there and done it” and puts a wicked, knowing glint in his eye at times.

Nicholas Watts and Gavin Ring are becoming rather a double act with Opera North, a double act that works so well. They blend perfectly together and master some difficult physical movements with ease whilst getting every inch of the comedic contents to a tee.

As the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, Maire Flavin and Helen Sherman are as different as chalk and cheese. Helen Sherman is feisty yet spirited with a mischievous air about her, whilst Maire Flavin displays an icy, dramatic feistiness that eventually melts.

Ellie Laugharne’s Despina is a sheer treat and left me breathless. With a wicked glint in her eye and a love of the finer things that she can’t have as a ladies maid she is Despina as Despina is meant to be.

Cosi fan Tutte is meant to translate as “they are all the same” but as productions go, and I’ve seen a lot of this opera this stands far above all the rest.

Runs until 26 February at The Grand Theatre, Leeds then goes on tour to Manchester and Nottingham

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