OTC, Così fan tutte
Gleeson Theatre, DIT Kevin Street, DublinAmong Mozart’s late operas, Così fan tutte is especially amenable to the kind of trimmed-down, touring production that Opera Theatre Company premiered here. It requires just six principals, and the choruses can be omitted via sensitive editing. More challenging is the possible loss of impact when rearranging such a sumptuous orchestral score.
All these issues, and more, are persuasively addressed by this production, the core technique of which lies in a rebalancing of visual, narrative and musical elements.
Director Orpha Phelan treats the characters almost as archetypes. The sisters are Essex girls, with Fiordiligi (Mairéad Buicke) nearly elegant and Dorabella (Martha Bredin) a vulgarian – a young Hyacinth Bucket, but without moral rectitude. Their genial lovers, Ferrando (Sune Hjerrild) and Guglielmo (Owen Gilhooly) seem at everyone’s mercy. Crucially, Don Alfonso (Simon Wilding) is a Victorian magician-cum-ringmaster of magical manipulative power.
Indeed, the first act takes place mainly within a booth with a changeable interior; and over the doors of which is written: “The Magical Emporium of Dottore Alfonso.” Despina (Colette Delahunt) seems to relish her authority, not so much Alfonso’s helper as his proxy.
All this is helped along by a witty translation into English that works well with the music. According to a published interview with the director, it is by Ruth and Thomas Martin.
Musically, this is an effective production. Andrew Griffiths directed from the piano with quietly virtuosic flair, and was ably supported by one each of cello, flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. The stage direction and Madeleine Boyd’s impeccable designs let music work its magic, and only in some parts of act II (Alfonso waving flags and the large magnet from act I making a reappearance) did visual elements distract.
The singers were well cast, with the vocal authority of Simon Wilding a highlight apt for the presiding genius. This intelligent, sensitive production was by no means flawless, but it made a memorable and very enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
Touring nationally until December 4th