Cosi Fan Tutti or “The School for Lovers” to give it the alternative name by which it is known, was first performed at the Burgtheater, Vienna on 26th January 1790, and has been performed and enjoyed by thousands of people ever since. It is described as Opera buffa – simply translated as comic opera and it certainly justifies the title.
It tells the story of Fiordiligi (played by Elizabeth Watts) and her sister Dorabella (played by Maire Flavin) who are engaged to two Italian sailors – Ferrando (Andrew Tortise) and Guglielmo (Gary Griffiths). The sailors are stationed in a British seaside town, and their fiancées are coming to visit them.
The two sailors have become acquainted with Don Alfonso (Steven Page), an Italian immigrant and pier entertainer. He challenges the two sailors saying the women can never be faithful, and bets a large sum of money on proving to them that the women they love will betray them. The men then go off and return disguised as strangers. Don Alfonso also bribes Despina – the chamber maid at the girls’ guest house, and wonderfully played as a young unmarried mother by Joanne Boag – to help the two men to woo their own fiancées.
Many tricks, misunderstandings and pranks ensure to get the two girls to succumb to the seduction so that Don Alfonso can win the bet.
The Welsh National Opera have rightly achieved significant recognition for their outstanding performances, and this one is no exception. The director – Benjamin Davis – has put together an outstanding production. The set (designed by Max Jones) and skillfully constructed by Welsh National Opera Workshop, is superb and Philip Gladwell’s lighting is excellent. Davis has chosen to set this production in the 1950’s and it really works for this story, with the costumes obviously having been well researched and fitted beautifully with the time.
The orchestra, conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, excel – Mozart’s music is not always the easiest of things to play – I believe one contemporary of his claimed that his music had too many notes – but I would say that in this, it has just the right number!
There are some charming little touches from the chorus, with a silent, chain-smoking character appearing throughout the show, and several other highly amusing and notable characters. A magical performance throughout and a delight to watch.
Just one word of warning - it does run for approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes with only one interval but I have to say that it certainly doesn’t seem that long to me.