Manchester Theatre Awards

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Cosi Fan Tutte

Mozart/Da Ponte/Sams
Clonter Opera Theatre
Clonter Opera Theatre
19 July 2015 to 26 July 2015

First the title, jokey and non-pc, which roughly translates as “They’re all like that,” meaning women being fickle and feckless. But the alternative title is The School For Lovers, and director Harry Fehr has taken that as his cue.

This Cosi is set in a mixed public school, where school uniform is the order of the day.  The sisters, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, wear tartan skirts, blue blazers and knee-length socks. Alfonso is be-gowned head boy, who persuades rugger-playing Ferrando and Guglielmo to disappear for a day, to put their girlfriends’ fidelity to the test for a £1,000 bet.

Designer Eleanor Wdowski provides a spare but effective set, which serves as the school locker room, canteen and eventually marriage parlour.

It’s a young-at-heart production in every way, sung (clearly) in English, and it was encouraging to see so many young people enjoying themselves in the audience as a result of Clonter’s educational outreach efforts.

I found it refreshing, delightful and funny, though seriously musical under the firm and patient hand of conductor Clive Timms, steering the alert 12-strong Clonter Sinfonia through Mozart’s score.

The singing and acting is of a high order, full of conviction and enjoyment. As Fiordiligi (Guglielmo’s girlfriend), soprano Elizabeth Skinner displays a quite remarkable voice, so powerful and beautiful even at this stage that one could see her developing into a Wagnerian heroine. The danger here is that she needs to be modulated in the ensemble pieces.  Kamilla Dunstan, also in good voice, makes an attractive Dorabella (Ferrando’s girlfriend) and they work well as sisters, nicely capturing the girlish frivolity.

Dominic Walsh and Andrew McTaggart perform splendidly and rumbustiously as the boyfriends, not least when they appear disguised as mini-guitar-toting German tourists, garishly dressed. Nick Dwyer is a smooth, devious and credible ring-master,  and petite Joana Gil is characterful as his co-fixer.

It’s a pleasure to see such a spirited contemporary take on this 225-year-old favourite.

 

 

 

Reviewer: Philip Radcliffe

Comments

Comment by Robert Beale

Very much agreed. It was very funny, not just because of the concept, which did break down eventually, as you can hardly imagine schoolgirls today suddenly donning bridal veils and signing marriage contracts – but mainly because of the characterizations shown by the cast. This is where the originality of the direction was met by the stagecraft and vocal skills of the singers.

Elizabeth Skinner has a truly remarkable voice, secure in pitch and powerful throughout a wide range. Kamilla Dunstan matched her for tone, strength and accuracy, and their duets were a joy to hear. Dominic Walsh is a seriously impressive young tenor, and the experienced Andrew McTaggart again made a strong impression, both acting as cleverly as the archetypical teenager girls. Nick Dwyer (Alfonso) has a finely developing baritone, and Joana Gil brought sparky sweetness to Despina – and had to transform into complementary healer, all bangles and crystals, and smart-suited female lawyer, as well.

The exceptional musical quality of the show was again in the capable hands of conductor Clive Timms, and the little Clonter Sinfonia, led by Liz Rossi, played delightfully.