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Welsh National Opera: Cosi fan tutte – The Mayflower, Southampton

Composer: Mozart

Librettist: Lorenzo da Ponte

Director: Benjamin Davis

Conductor: Mark Wigglesworth

Reviewer: Ann Bawtree



Some can see deep philosophical and moral struggles between the characters as they strive to play out the story of “Cosi fan tutte”, however, to others it is a trivial tale of shallow people in whom it is hard to maintain any interest in what happens to them. Whatever attitude is taken, and most will be somewhere in between, the Welsh National Opera presents a delightful evening’s entertainment.

Despite their protestations of undying love, none of the four central characters played by Andrew Tortoise, Gary Griffiths, Maire Flavin and Elizabeth Watts, can be supposed to have really cared for each other. The two men would never have accepted the immoral dare of Don Alfonso (Neil Davies) to put their loved ones to the test. For their part the girls would not have succumbed to their new admirers and the thought that they would not have seen through the flimsy disguises of their original swains, even though they had changed partners, points either to the thinness of the plot or the girls imbecility.

However the whole is made truly wonderful by the direction of Benjamin Davis and designer Max Jones. The set is of a seaside promenade of the late 1950s/early 1960s. During the overture it is populated by various characters assembling on the pier. Butlin’s style Redcoats prepare to entertain and a tap dancer in a tutu performs, both ignored by dog walkers. The dogs were wonderful and raised some of the biggest laughs of the evening. Later, in Act II, more fantastical characters arrive to amuse, for example the life size Punch and Judy people and the Bearded Lady. Funniest of all is Despina, (Joanne Boag) the Maid at the Ice Cream Parlour/guest house who, besides having a superb voice has real comic talent. If it is possible for a woman to sing falsetto, then she does as the supposed “doctor” with her unconventional cures.

The opera is long, but the music, of course is of the very best and the musical performance amounted to all that one has come to expect of the Welsh National Opera. Lovers of Mozart will not be disappointed and judging from accounts of his broad sense of humour he would be entertained to have some of his best work performed in a 20th century bathroom!


Runs: at Birmingham Hippodrome (9th November 2012), Liverpool Empire (22nd November 2012) and Bristol Hippodrome (28th and 30th November 2012)


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