Teatro alla Scala
Grace DurhamDorabella (Mezzo)
Opera Cosi fan tutte
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
Casual sexism notwithstanding, and despite the preposterous suspension of disbelief that it demands, any production of Mozart and da Ponte's relationships comedy still forces a director to take sides. While Lissa Lorenzo's frock-shop staging for Scottish Opera's mid-scale tour last year undoubtedly put the women in the driving seat, Nicolette Molnar's version, for a very fine cast of young singers studying in Scotland, gives the whip hand to the men, so to speak, as the libretto more obviously suggests. But that is not to suggest that the performances of mezzo Grace Durham as Dorabella and Charlie Drummond as Fiordiligi were in anyway inferior to those of baritone Christopher Nairne's Guglielmo and tenor Kyanyiso Gwenxane's Ferrando, only that their characters were always the ones on the back foot. The higher voices in each pairing are the more fully-formed, while Drummond's superb instrument comes with physical poise and command of facial expression that mark her out as a name to watch carefully.
Nicky Shaw's spare but very useful stepped staging, with a dozen mannequins flying in and out at the start and end, sets the piece in the First World War, in a field hospital or even Edinburgh's Craiglockhart. When the lads assume their Albanian disguise, the moustaches are paired with kilts, and a set of bagpipes are an amusing (silent) prop. With Klaudia Korzeniewska a vivacious, scampering Despina and Colin Murray a plus-foured Don Alfonso, the daft narrative could not be clearer. Nor, mostly, could the music, with colourful winds on the overture, brass bravely rising to the challenge of period instruments under the baton of Tim Dean, fine emsemble work from the singers, and Marija Struckova providing fortepiano continuo from out in the auditorium, stage right.