Cosė fan tutte - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Colin Davis - Thomas Allen
Royal Opera House - Covent Garden

I was at the ROH on 19 November 2001 when I just happened to be sitting next to the actor Michael York and his photographer wife Pat. We were all there to see Mozart's comic opera Cosi Fan Tutte (libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, conducted by Colin Davis). The opera full name is Cosi fan tutte ossia La Scuola degli Amati(Women Are Like That). It was composed in 1789 and first performed in Vienna on 26 January 1789. It is an opera buffa, which means it is a comedy.

The plot: offended by the misogynist remarks of their old friend, the philosopher Don Alfonso, Ferrando and Guglielmo agree to lay wagers on the outcome of a game he has designed to test the fidelity of their respective sweethearts (Dorabella and Fiordiligi). Ferrando plans to spend his winnings on a serenade to his sweetheart (Una bella serenata) and Guglielmo on a banquet for his sweetheart. The two young men agree to obey the instructions of Alfonso (who has enlisted the help of Despina, the women's assistant). The plan was that they feign a heartbroken departure as soldiers going into battle, only to return a few hours later disguised as dashing Albanians, eager to win the favours of the abandoned sisters. The young women put up an outraged defence of their virtue but before long they are yielding to the exotic advances of the strangers (Dorabella replaces Ferrando's portrait, which she wears around her neck with a heart of her new admirer). The conspiracy gradually becomes enmeshed by their own plot and are dismayed to find they are as susceptible as their victims are. All four lovers discover that no one is exempt from the secret inconsistencies of love. Alfonso admits that the plot was his idea and urges the four to laugh it off. The women express their remorse and the men accept pleas for forgiveness. The experiment is over and all may learn a lesson from it!!!

Fiordiligi expresses her faithfulness to her lover in a wonderful aria, "Firm as a rock in ocean planted, Tho' the billows may surge around it, So my heart relies undaunted, On its virtue and its love". Soile Iskoski was a superb Fiordiligi and when she sang "Per Pieta", I felt that I wanted it to go on forever. Don Alfonso, however, maintains that faithfulness in women is like the phoenix, often talked about but never sung.

It was another opera updated and performed in modern dress, with the men disguised as dreadlocked hippies!

Ferrando was played by Kenneth Tarver; Guglielmo by Dalibor Jenis; Don Alfonso (a superb performance as the Don with his laid-back approach and dead-behind-the-eyes look) was played by Thomas Allen; Fiordiligi was played by Soile Isokoski; Dorabella by Helene Schneiderman; and Despina by Niccia Rocile.

Verinha Ottoni.

[P. S. The programme carried a tribute to Thomas Allen, who has had a 30-year career at Covent Garden. Unlike many singers who specialise in a few roles, Allen will sing everything and he is still adding new roles - a great vocal artist and actor. He is the "complete opera singer." ]


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