This production directed by Benjamin Davis sees the classic Mozart opera set in a British seaside town of a non-specific era, home to a community of pier entertainers and fairground workers. Clever use of the traditional seaside entertainment blends well into the story, the Punch and Judy characters coming to life a particular high point.
Slow to get going, with a slightly under rehearsed feel, but by the second aria all is well and the performers settle nicely into their roles. There are six leading characters in the plot, the two sailors Ferrando, (Andrew Tortise), and Guglielmo (Gary Griffiths), their fiancées, sisters Fiordiligi (Elizabeth Watts) and Dorabella (Maire Flavin), their ‘friend’, pier entertainer Don Alfonso (Neal Davis) and chambermaid Despina (Joanne Boag).
All the principals are strong in their performances and vocally, especially in their respective solos, and it is difficult to single one performer out from the others as they are all on a level. Joanne Boag’s portrayal of Despina shows great comedic talent carrying many of the humorous elements of the story.
The two sisters’ anguish as their loyalty to their men is tested, is entertaining, with loads of over the top feeling and angst. The two sailors’ cheeky schoolboyish turn, disguised as two ‘Punch’ characters is higly enjoyable, and the scheming ways of Don Alfonso well played.
The large orchestra, under the expert direction of Mark Wigglesworth provides the perfect accompaniment to the performance on stage.
Perhaps not the most memorable of Mozart’s scores, but a show made great with Benjamin Davis’ imaginative direction, and the evocative and fun seaside settings of Max Jones with strong performances, much humour, and of course the accessible and enjoyable music.