What: Cosi fan Tutte
Where: Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre
Reviewer: William Dart
NZ Opera’s sparkling Cosi fan Tutte marks a welcome return to the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre and main stage repertoire.
This opera has always been tricky territory with its sexual politics — both Beethoven and Wagner deemed its plot of two women hoodwinked into “infidelity” unworthy of Mozart’s talents.
Significantly, three women lead NZ Opera’s creative team, although Matthew Marshall’s lighting is also a major asset, from flickering cocktail bar silhouettes to his gleaming illumination of the second act’s frolics and follies.
Natalie Murray Beale’s incisive musical direction obviously inspires a buoyant Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Tracey Grant Lord designs can be enjoyed in everything from glamorous gowns and fetching hippie disguises to the ingenuity of the first act’s revolving stage.
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Director Lindy Hume obviously appreciates the ironies and contemporary relevance of this piece, fashioning a tight, responsive ensemble from her six players, especially in quickfire recitatives.
Hume knows the value of theatrical coups, and there were many. The first act finale occasions a hilarious chase within the revolving stage; in a later duet, you search to find the two singing faces in a grid of fantastical animals. And, after interval, the chorus brings unexpected layers of surreal mystery.
Hanna Hipp’s witty Dorabella registers best in ensemble, particularly with Emma Pearson’s Fiordiligi, absolutely transcendent in her soul-searching second act aria.
Julien Van Mellearts and Jonathan Abernethy as Guglielmo and Ferrando are swaggering blades with the skill and artistry to deliver a Mozartian line with elegance.
Andrew Foster-Williams as the highly manipulative Don Alfonso is a suave if not always mellifluous villain, while Georgia Jamieson Emms’ Despina mixes cocktails while she sings, poses as a wacky doctor and a doddering lawyer, and opens the second act with an aria so fresh and immediate Mozart might have held it over for The Magic Flute.
With two more performances on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, this is not to be missed.