Dubbed 'the cruellest and most disturbing opera ever written' by Max Loppert, Cosi Fan Tutte is nevertheless an opera of great romantic allusion and philosophical enquiry into the nature of happiness, the quest for wisdom and the possibility of romantic and erotic fidelity. It combines themes of profound moral significance with an emphasis upon laughter and lightheartedness that although it threatens to undermine the seriousness of the enquiry only serves to complicate it.
The casting for the production is on the whole strong and even. Jacques Imbrailo has a warm baritone which has both power and soul and lends his performance of Guglielmo great authenticity. Notably, his seduction of Lucia Cirillo's Dorabella has a potent erotic charge that is fully believable. Andrew Tortise's tenor is true, although some of his more impassioned moments lacked grandeur. Gillian Ramm has a bright, shook foil, soprano, and sings her arias and duets with impeccable timing, but her expressions are disappointingly restricted, and thus her performance lacks the emotional credibility of the others. Perhaps the most thrilling performance comes from Simona Mihai who offers us a spirited and cunning Despina. Thoroughly delicious, she manages to combine freshness with craftiness with great finesse.
Cosi Fan Tutte is an opera which has been criticised for its immorality and misogyny, but the current production tackles the issues with an unflinching candour, conveying the subtlety of its underlying themes. Speaking from an age of reason to an age of ambiguity, it deals with themes of betrayal, inconstancy and infidelity. Its title - which translates as They All Do It - has been interpreted to suggest that all women will prove inconstant if put to the test; that it is in the nature of woman to be unfaithful. However, this production also seeks to highlight the predatory ruthlessness of the men, with an emphasis upon the power enjoyed by the perpetrators of deception, seduction and those who prey upon the 'loving natures' of the women. The women are seen as much as victims of forbidden desire as they are faithless wantons. Nowhere is this more poignant than in Ramm's final surrender to Ferrando's ardent lovemaking. Don Alfonso, played with great panache by Riccardo Novaro, is portrayed as an arch manipulator, playing with the true affections of all the other characters.
The end of the opera is traditionally fraught with uncertainty: which pairing will provide the resolution is open to interpretation. Here, under a fabulous canopy of silk, reminiscent of the Arabian nights, the couples maintain their fluid alliances, leaving the conclusion artfully ambiguous. Fantastic and complex, this is a production which treats the seriousness of its themes with admirable lightness of touch.p> - Claire Steele