Opera review: Scottish Opera: Così fan tutte, St Mary’s Church, Haddington

Scottish Opera’s Così fan tutte is a triumph thanks to its six sparky soloists, writes Ken Walton

Michael Mofidian as a puckish Don Alfonso in Scottish Opera's Cosi fan tutte PIC: Sally Jubb Photography

Scottish Opera: Così fan tutte, St Mary’s Church, Haddington ****

There’s a major perceptual difference between the original filmed version, released last December, of Scottish Opera’s production of Così fan tutte, and its translation this week to live presentation at the Lammermuir Festival.

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On the one hand, those to-camera asides originally so intrinsic to director Roxana Haines’ inspired retelling of Mozart’s buffa opera as a reality TV show now cease to exist. Props servicing that on film, such as the “studio camera” and “on air” light, are now relegated to lesser prominence, lesser significance.

On the other hand, the onus is now entirely on the same vivacious young cast to carry the farcical storyline – sisters tricked by their respective boyfriends into switching their affections – and they absolutely do. Two-thirds of this six-strong solo cast are Scottish Opera Emerging Artists. There’s a mutual electricity among this sparky team that makes this live performance sizzle from start to finish.

The stage – in this case a minimally-furnished raised platform at the central crossing in St Mary’s Church, with the orchestra and chorus operating behind – is their natural habitat. Strong vocal performances are key, but convincing theatrical engagement is the icing on the cake, every gesture visible, every facial expression meaningful. Who needs surtitles when the eyes alone tell the story?

At its heart is an energetically interactive foursome. The chemistry between Arthur Bruce’s laddish bravado as Guglielmo, Shengzhi Ren’s poetic soulfulness as Ferrando, Margo Arsane’s teasingly capricious Dorabella and the more calming passions of Charlie Drummond’s Fiordiligi is like a controlled explosion. Michael Mofidian, a puckish Don Alfonso (the game show host), and Catriona Hewitson, an agile all-purpose Despina, are class manipulators.

The church setting imbues the orchestra and chorus with a natural resonance, but music director Stuart Stratford rarely allows that to dampen the overall Mozartian elan.

Repeat performance in Perth Concert Hall, 11 September, www.scottishopera.org.uk

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