Review of Cosi fan tutte at the Dorset Opera Festival in 2021: It works flawlessly!
Over the years, there have been many creative ideas for the setting of Mozart’s Cos fan tutte, including one that took place on a beach!
Other updates have worked or not worked theatrically in the past. Whatever one may think of Cos fan tutte (loosely translated as All Women Are Like That), it is evident that Mozart and his librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, would not have gotten away with the opera’s subject matter and blatant sexism in today’s world. Despite its popularity as a light-hearted comedy on today’s international “favorites” list, Cos was considered obscene in its early productions in Vienna in 1790, and it was rarely staged before WWII.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that it began to find a place in the repertory.
Surprisingly, America didn’t get its first showing until 1922.
Which brings us to Christopher Cowell’s fantastic production for the Dorset Opera Festival this summer. This staging of Cos, when combined with one of the other two da Ponte operas (Don Giovanni) and Händel’s Acis and Galatea – the latter in the Mozart orchestration – pushed the audience out of their comfort zone, but it all made sense!
Cowell tells us in his program note that throughout the 1960s and 1970s, young people were urged to join VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) for a few weeks during the summer.
I doubt it went so far as to provide nursing staff for a field hospital behind enemy lines in a combat zone on the Central American isthmus. However, an artwork from the 1970s TV dramedy series MAS*H is included in the software, giving you an impression of the setting. The transition is flawless.
Samantha Clarke and Heather Lowe played the nursing sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella admirably.
They — indeed, the entire cast – acted as though they had spent their entire lives working and playing together.
But these two magnificent young singers, in particular, provided an outstanding performance in their respective roles, their voices harmonizing beautifully in their several duetting moments.
Ferrando (Peter Gijsbertsen) and Guglielmo (Jevan McAuley), the ‘boys,’ were excellent soldiers, going off to the ‘front’ with their ration packs and inflatable dinghy, then returning as moustachioed infiltrators seconds later.
Cowell had done so. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”