Reviewed by Gina Lilley
There is such a dogma around opera. Opera is elitist. Full of warbling vibrato, hugely expensive to attend and not even sung in English, so you cannot understand a word (even if you can get through the vibrato).
Why would you bother?
I never “got” opera and it certainly wouldn’t have been something I would have spent my money on, when looking for entertainment in years gone by. However, with the advent of much more publicly recognised singers – (Alfie Boe and Catherine Jenkins spring straight to mind) and the groupings of male voices that float in and out of popularity around Christmas time; the classically trained voice is all around us and accepted as lovely to listen to.
One step further from recognising you like the sounds of the classically trained voice, would be to give opera a go and this leads us to the reason The Glyndebourne Tour exists. It aims to bring “the excellence of Glyndebourne to the widest possible audience”. That means me and you!
Talking to people before attending, it is clear that Glyndebourne is highly regarded and so there really isn’t a better way to explore and discover what The Glyndebourne Tour has to offer.
At Milton Keynes Theatre we were amongst a mixed audience and it was clear that some people had seen very little opera before (like me) and some were regular attendees. This is what the tour wishes to encourage – you cannot possibly know what opera is all about unless you have seen it for yourself.
Not understanding the title of the opera, Cosi Fan Tutte could be a little off-putting but the programme gives great insight into the production.
A full story outline is written there along with the history of the production. It tells you that there are “super titles” and so even though the entire opera is sung in Italian, the words in English are shown above the stage. Condensed down into easily read two liners so that you don’t end up reading a wordy essay, but still completely understand what is being sung.
To be honest I would challenge anybody to not get sucked into the acting and beautiful singing offered by the cast. Often, I realised I hadn’t glanced at the English super titles at all, simply watching what was in front of me and hardly moving a muscle, in awe of their ability to hold a note for an incredibly long time, before seemingly not drawing breath and carrying on. Very impressive.
The opera was one of love, jealousy and meddling. This story revolves around 2 couples who are in love. A meddling male “friend” suggests his male friends test the love of their women, wishing to prove that if another male shows interest in them, they will be unfaithful. Cosi Fan Tutte translated means “all women are like that”! All seemingly meant as a joke it unfolds and relationships are tested and mended (possibly), although actually leaves you recognising how dangerous a game that is to play, even in jest. Still as true today as it was way back in 1790 when this particular opera was first performed. This version is directed by Nicholas Hytner and the Revival Director is Bruno Ravella. There is a great set which has huge moving doors helping create the different scenes and it is brightly lit which makes it very easy on the eye. The costumes too are of great quality.
The couples are played by Bogdan Volkov, Ilya Kutyukhin, Kirsten MacKinnon and Rachel Kelly. Their voices blend beautifully and there are many opportunities for them to show off their dexterity in range and ability to hold the audience as if transfixed, while they explore their story.
The meddling friend is played by Jose Fardilha and he is often singing underneath the couple’s voices, while they lament their confusion and angst; he is laughing at the mess he has managed to create. He is helped hugely in this awful mess by the Maid played by Ana Quintans and there is a lot of great humour to be had as she comes on in different disguises to aid the meddling plot.
The chorus of singers are not often on stage in this particular opera, but my goodness what a beautiful sound they create when they are.
The opera, written by Mozart, is certainly very pretty to listen to and the orchestra was equally full of talented musicians conducted by Leo McFall. Altogether this created a really brilliant evening of music and song with a story that is as true today as it was when created.
So when you see that the Glyndebourne Touring company is coming to a theatre near you, I urge you to give it a go. You will be entertained by talented and well-trained musicians and singers who are passionate in what they do. Let’s face it, if you want to try something and make sure it’s the best experience it can be, go to the very best. Glyndebourne is exactly that.
Tickets cost from £20.40 to £74.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Glyndebourne’s Cosi Fan Tutte is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 21-23 November 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ