Review: Cosi fan tutte, Opera North, Leeds Grand Theatre, Friday, February 2nd, 2024

WORLD weary philosopher Don Alfonso strikes a wager with his two young officer friends, Ferrando and Guglielmo. They are engaged to the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella. The cynical Don is adamant that as soon as his friends are called away on active service, the ladies will seek love elsewhere.

“Cosi fan tutte - all women are the same.” The opera’s alternative title is School For Lovers. Another sub-heading could be Men Behaving Badly. At the behest of Alfonso, Ferrando and Guglielmo test the constancy of their loved ones to breaking point. The pair make themselves unrecognisable as Albanian visitors whom the ladies find irresistible. It all eventually ends in reconciliation and marriage for the two young couples, after the ‘Albanians’ have cast aside their disguises. Alfonso wins his bet....or does he?

Cosi fan tutte is the final work of Mozart’s great trilogy of Italian operas with librettos by Lorenzo Da Ponte. The sublime orchestral and vocal writing contains some of his most sensuous music which is revealed in translucent detail by the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Clemens Schuldt.

There are just six named principal roles - no single character dominates the opera. The one and only chorus number is sung by the Chorus of Opera North from the wings, invisible to the audience. Tim Albery’s 18th century period staging, with sets and costumes designed by Tobias Hoheisel, effectively focuses the action solely on the six principals within a claustrophobic space like the inside of a Box Brownie camera.

A superlative Mozartian cast is led by two singers who share the same surname but are unrelated. Creamy toned soprano Alexandra Lowe sings Fiordiligi. Mezzo soprano Heather Lowe is vocally well matched as her sister Dorabella. The tenor Anthony Gregory brings incredible agility and purity of tone to the role of Ferrando. He is beautifully complemented by Henry Neill’s rich and flexible lyric baritone as Guglielmo. Both voices sounded remarkably similar in timbre at the middle of their range. Baritone Quirijn de Lang is a velvety smooth Don Alfonso. His scheme is ably aided and abetted by Gillene Butterfield as the mischievous Despina.

Not to be missed.

Leeds Grand Theatre February 10th,14th,16th, 21st, 23rd.