It would have probably been too obvious to cast Don Alfonso as a ring master in the big top seeing we were indeed watching and listening to Cosi in a circus tent at Longborough Festival Opera. Instead, he is a card shark, playing on Guglielomo and Ferrando presumably slightly nouveau twit gullibility to firstly part them from their cash and then from their senses in opera’s most famous daft costume deceptions
In this cut down and jazzed up (well Tango, accordion, tambourine – just about all sorts of swing and musical jollity) but not savaged Cosi. Lesley Anne Sammons conducts the fun Barefoot Band in a zany and generally delightful orchestration of Mozart’s exquisite score.
John Molloy (above) plays his love-struck saps with the help of a downtrodden Despina nicely taken by Lizzie Holmes (below), not quite reducing them to the usual despair of tricked and heartbroken lovers – the two women are portrayed as a bit too world for that – and the men as too, well, feckless.
Sam Brown makes excellent use of the open stage offered by the circus tent and the entrances from different directions to allow a flowing and engaging direction rather than a stand and sing Cosi. Designer Naomi Kuyck Cohen creates a simple set with plaster statues that are used in the action, whether with squirty cream on their torsos and private parts or serenaded by the lovers
The costumes are fun throughout, whether the brides Anna Patalong as Fiordiligi and Idunnu Münch (left and right main image) as Dorabella are literally on pedestals trying on wedding dresses to their fancy dress for a disco party (yes, indeed) and the suitors Guglielmo (Marcus Farnsworth) and Ferrando (William Morgan) are rather oddly Hulk and some sort of Red Devil for their disguises. Their military clothes are army green baggy boiler suits which (usually) cover up their disguise costumes.
Anna Patalong has great presence as Fiordiligi, showing both acting and musical flair with Idunnu Münch singing a Dorabella of warmth and sophistication. I half suspected the women knew what was going on all the way through.
As with the two women, the suitors cut strongly contrasting characterisations, the appealing tenor of William Morgan (above) portrayed as more susceptible to the pathos of the situation while rich young baritone Marcus Farnsworth (above right) has a more devil may care attitude although when the cards are turned, he too sinks into at least temporary chagrin. But it is a comedy after all and although Despina and Don Alfonso clean up all is forgiven.
Longborough has brought some fun and musical originality and strong singing during these Covid times and even the singers having to social distance and wear masks at time sort of worked with the combination of humans and statues, disguise and revelation, falseness and reality. Similarly, the use of bottle bleach from Despina’s cleaning tray as the poison the lads take and the maid continually spraying and wiping surfaces gave this a possibly intentional double entendre all the way through.
Images: Matthew Williams-Ellis
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