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Cosi fan Tutte

W A Mozart

Welsh National Opera

Venue Cymru, Llandudno

March 14-16th, 2024, 2 hrs 55 mins

Not quite Cupid's arrows: deceived ansd deceivers in WNO's Cosi Fan Tutti
Not quite Cupid's arrows: deceived ansd deceivers in WNO's Cosi Fan Tutti

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Cosi fan tutte - "all women are like that" - is not, of course, a complimentary phrase, with the anachronistic and possibly insulting assumption that given the right lure, all women are fickle and will transfer their affections lightly.

This WNO production is set in a school, with Don Alfonso the headmaster, giving advice to two hopelessly optimistic and naive pupils. His cynical attitude about human nature - women in particular - sat comfortably at the time of composition.

Don Alfonso (Jose Fardilha) seeks to educate two of his pupils, Gulielmo (James Atkinson) and Ferrando (Egor Zhuravskii) about relationships and fidelity. He sets them a wager: if they join the Army, their girlfriends, Dorabella (Kayleigh Decker) and Fiordiligi (Sophie Bevan) will soon find someone else. To prove this, the pair should disguise themselves and return to woo each others loved one.

The two girls are advised by Despina (Rebecca Evans) that men are not to be trusted and that while their boyfriends are away, it wouldn't do any harm to seek company and entertainment elsewhere.Once the girls heads are turned and they plan to marry their new beaux, their original partners reveal themselves, bringing shame on the sisters.

In Act 1 this scenario is rather jolly and the lads think it a lark to see how far they need to push before their girlfriends succumb to their alternative charms. In Act 2, the pressure to make the girls stray becomes unbearable and eventually they both give in, proving Don Alfonso's point.

To modern eyes this treatment of the girls seems cruel, little short of coercion. The cynical attitudess of Don Alfonso and Despina, as adults, effectively deny that fidelity exists, and their actions end up damaging the relationships between the couples - such that the wedding scene at the climax is a particularly joyless affair.

By the conclusion, the original couples are restored, older and wiser, and have learned the necessity of fidelity, and make the necessary commitment to each other. So while they learn it is painful to play with the feelings of a loved one, they stronger as a result.

The leads are all excellent. Rebecca Evans is particularly expressive throughout, and Jose Fardilha suitably villainous. Sophie Bevan steals the show with her lament as Fiordiligi gives up her stubborn resistance to the charms of Ferrando.

Mozart's score has a playful tone and there are some lovely, humourous moments, especially in the first act. This remains a thoroughly enjoyable opera despite its cruel underlying theme; it takes us through a range of emotions and leaves us with a valuable life lesson: that fidelity is great, when it can be found.

More info and tickets here


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