Mozart’s masterpiece Cosi Fan Tutte is a challenge for any major company as it requires not only superb singing but characterisation which is able to develop and interact with great subtlety. A single nuance can change the whole direction of the narrative.
Marcio da Silva’s approach for the young singers of Ensemble OrQuesta was certainly demanding but frequently made highly intelligent choices as the story unfolds. Set in modern dress, the class aspects of the work – less important than in Figaro – were still highlighted in the costuming. Key to this was Lisa Newill-Smith’s magnificent Despina. This was one of the must subtle performances I can recall, splendidly sung and totally alive to the text. If it made the two heroines seem rather dumb if not actually stupid at times it certainly built on the social aspects of Figaro where the workers really are able to outwit their masters.
The women were well contrasted with Alexandra Bork, a fearsome Fiordiligi. Her Come Scoglio had all the power in the lower regions but equally the coloratura for the florid top lines. Her emotional outbursts were fully in character.
Shana Evans-Bassett has a tight vibrato which can feel edgy. It might suit later works better than Mozart but there is no doubt about her stage presence. Her Dorabella melts quickly before Guglielmo whose suave presence she is eyeing up from the moment he appears, and the voice is a strong foil to Fiordiligi.
Tenor Oshri Segev is a real find. A genuine lyric tenor who brings great sensitivity to Un Aura Amorosa but has a sense of humour even when it goes disastrously wrong. As his friend, Guglielmo, Themba Mvula has a firm baritone which carries with authority but also warmth and charm.
Guiding all of the eventsof the day, Flavio Lauria’s Don Alfonso is witty and secure. The voice does not always have the carrying power of others on stage but he never lacks presence.
Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Neylson Crepalde made a strong impact and more than did justice to Mozart’s score. And yes – Marcio da Silva was retuning the harpsichord during the interval – is there nothing this man cannot do? By Brian Hick.