By Ken Walton
The latest in Scottish Opera’s classy run of filmed opera productions is also its longest, a full length performance of Mozart’s farcical opera buffa, Così fan tutte. Two sisters’ fidelity is put to the test by the machinations of the scheming Don Alfonso. The means of deception is absurd – their respective fiancés feign absence only to reappear disguised with apparent designs on each other’s betrothed. But it’s fun. And, of course, it’s Mozart.
Director Roxana Haines is working here under Covid-enforced constraints, but seeks to make the best of things by putting a contemporary theatrical twist on the story. With the orchestra tucked away at the rear of the stage, social distancing applied front stage by the carefully choreographed interaction of the six-strong cast, and the small chorus spread around the front of the circle, we are invited to view this Così as a manipulative TV-style reality game show.
Does it work? There’s certainly mileage in casting Alfonso as the ego-driven presenter, for whom popular ratings outweigh concern for his victims. This is a young and lively cast, whose strings are easily pulled by the puppet master.
Shengzhi Ren and Arthur Bruce imbue Ferrando and Guglielmo with sparring electricity. Charlie Drummond’s golden Fiordiligi is a wholesome foil to Margo Arsane’s flirtatious Dorabella. As Don Alfonso, Michael Mofidian’s sleazy self-importance is in keeping, as is Catriona Hewitson’s complicit Despina.
The game show concept is ultimately superfluous, easily forgotten as the opera progresses, unobtrusive enough not to detract from much fine Mozart singing and generally lithe orchestral playing under Stuart Stratford.