COSÌ FAN TUTTE Opera North, The Lowry
OPERA NORTH are offering two of their vintage productions at The Lowry this week, with one new production (Giordano’s Andrea Chenier) which doesn’t come until Saturday.
Their Così Fan Tutte is 12 years old (last seen here six-and-a-half years ago), and still excellent value. Director Tim Albery sets it in its own period, with 18th-century wigs and costumes, and in an anonymous place with no backdrop. But one set dominates all – a huge camera obscura in which all truth is to be revealed by an unblinking lens (set and costume design by Tobias Hoheisel).
The story – of two sisters and their lovers, who discover all too easily that affections can be first simulated and then transferred to each other’s sweethearts (in a single day, thus winning a bet for philosopher Don Alfonso, aided and abetted by the amoral ladies’ maid, Despina) – is thus presented as a kind of early scientific experiment, with chosen materials and a controlled environment.
It works really well. Sung in English, the opera must depend on audibility to make its full effect, and, oddly enough, is less easy to understand than in the format we’re more used to these days, of original language with projected English surtitles.
William Dazeley (Don Alfonso) is well used to opera in English and has no trouble in that department, delivering the role with the practised expertise and burnished tone we’ve seen and heard before. And he’s funny.
The young couples (Máire Flavin as Fiordiligi, Gavan Ring as Guglielmo, Helen Sherman as Dorabella, Nicholas Watts as Ferrando) are all top-drawer young opera singers, and well known to Opera North audiences. Máire Flavin was thoroughly tested and came through with flying colours in her two showpieces, Like A Fortress (Come Scoglio) and Dearest Lover (Per Pietà), and Nicholas Watts shone in Our Love Is A Flower (Un’ Aura Amoroso) and elsewhere.
Ellie Laugharne (Despina) is likewise a lively actress-singer whom we know well from Buxton Festival and Opera North previously: she communicated more by face and demeanour than total clarity but is always a joy to see and hear.
Anthony Kraus in the pit, with the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, kept all lively and precise – only the final scene made a little less than its full impact, and that’s mainly down to the audibility issue when everything’s in English.
Repeated March 18.