Review by Clive Peacock of Cosi Fan Tutte at the Nevill Holt Opera
The creative use of Douglas fir in the new Nevill Holt Opera House is a wonderful a testament to the vision and tenacity of the architects and the construction teams and, above all, the drive and enthusiasm of the owner, David PJ Ross.
It must be a special gift to be invited to perform on this stage; it must be a thrill to have the opportunity to direct, design and light this stage and most exciting to play in the pit under the leadership of the talented Nicholas Chalmers.
Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte (All Women do Thus) is a perfect fit for this stage. Two acts, two pairs of lovers and an equally symmetrical construction provided Mozart with the opportunity for an incomparable score.
Director, Adele Thomas and Designer, Helen Clark combine to deliver an energy-brimming, superb production worthy of all the plaudits a full house offered at the end of a scintillating evening. From beginning to end the singers maintained a high octane pace. Seldom has a large dining room table played such an important role in the several erotic challenges; seldom have balloons played such an important role as props.
With no time to spare, the overture scene makes a cracking start introducing the vibrant party-goers, the chaplinesque cinematographic theme and intriguing art deco designs. All this supported by a crisp Royal Northern Sinfonia in good shape with excellent wind contributions and notable forte piano playing by Peter Davies. On stage the deceptions are engineered by the wise Don Alfonso (John Malloy) who brutally teases Ferrando (Nick Pritchard) and Guglielmo (Martin Hässler) of the need to test the faithfulness of their intended partners, at the same time encouraging the far-to -easily influenced sisters, Fordiligi (Alexandra Lowe) and Dorabella (Katie Coventry) to be unfaithful. And so they are! Stealing the limelight is the sister’s chattering maid Despina (Carolina Lippo) whose use of an egg whisk in teaching the unfaithful sisters a lesson they will never forget is very frightening!
Considerable athleticism is shown by the unfaithful foursome during enough erotic episodes for one screening; the party-goers maintain the high pace level throughout never allowing this to drop. Just occasionally during moments of reflection, Despina, sporting the Chaplin moustache, decides to chide all with her appearance as the notary about to conduct the reverse marriages with Ferrando and Guglielmo disguised as Albanian soldiers. As the military music starts up, the excellent Don Alfonso ensures his wager is complete and confronts the ridiculed couple now dressed as half Albanian soldiers and half as officers. This has all the makings of a huge season success. The outstanding message from the last few moments of confusion is “happy are those who see good in everything”; perhaps a message which should be taken away by all from Nevill Holt. The evening was one of outstanding enjoyment with Alexandra Lowe and Katie Coventry’s most amusing and effective portrayals matched most appropriately by Pritchard and Hässler. Rehearsals must have been such fun! As leaders of deception, John Malloy and Carolina Lippo will have few equals. Loved it all.