Così fan Tutte (GSMD)

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

How do we deal with the amoral chess game of Così fan tutte amid the ruckus of #MeToo? … In an updated staging by Oliver Platt, Guildhall School embraces the uneasiness head-on, absorbing it into the drama rather than hammering out crass contemporary parallels. This is wise. It leaves the humour, from slapstick to pure nasty, intact, while embedding the plot’s squeamish portrayal of women into every exchange, every lunge.

Guglielmo and Ferrando… launch themselves at each others’ girlfriend as if by god-given right. When one sees the other succeeding, physical tension runs high: a near fight breaks out. Sometimes played as indistinguishable, here they are sharply delineated, Ferrando really quite sensitive, Guglielmo brawny and knowing.

Stylishly designed by Neil Irish with lighting by Rory Beaton, this Così is a terrific showcase for Guildhall.

4/5 Stars Fiona Maddocks The Observer

Guglielmo and Ferrando, the two men in Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s pitiless exposé of the supposed fickleness of young love are…a sharply directed appraisal of the boundaries of male friendship…– and when, in Act Two, emotional territory is trampled underfoot, both singers play out the pain of fiancée-swapping confusion with great poignancy..

If anything, Oliver Platt – who has already shown off his considerable Così form in his Opera Holland Park staging this summer – directs the two sisters with an even surer hand. 

… Platt’s consistently confrontational take on the plot’s very contemporary abuse of the two sisters, leaving us, the jury-audience, in no doubt as to the devastation wreaked by Alfonso’s Pyrrhic victory.

4/5 StarsPeter Reed  Classical Source

Nevertheless, the idea of a southern port city as a venue for touristic licence may well prove an apt setting for what is at dramatic stake. It helped Mozart and Da Ponte tread the fine line between realism and artifice that is surely fundamental to this, (one of) the very greatest of all operas; it also did to outstanding effect in Opera Holland Park’s new production this summer.

In a different way, or at least in a different southern port setting, so too does it in the Guildhall’s new staging….Rarely, if ever, for instance, have I seen quite so raucous an opening scene, as the licentious ways of the naval boys (and at least one girl), their partners, and their would-be partners got under way, our quartet of lovers to be schooled taken from their number. That sense of a social context, however – a meaningful social context rather than a mere setting, ‘pretty’ or otherwise – remained common to both productions.

So too, again in different ways according to the different requirements of this particular production and performance, were the spatial, eminently musical visualisations of Mozart’s extraordinary and extraordinarily telling musical symmetries and oppositions… Whatever the ‘incidental’ detail of tequila shots, of entertainment in sombreros, of Despina the notary as Judge Judy, the fundamentals – related, not necessarily identical – were present both in Holland Park and at the Guildhall. So too was the existential devastation, the clear-eyed, merciless refusal to transcend, of the close.

Mark Berry Opera Today