Magazine article The Spectator

Vintage Year

Magazine article The Spectator

Vintage Year

Article excerpt

Così fan Tutte; The Turn of the ScrewGlyndebourne Touring Opera, Norwich

Glyndebourne on Tour is having a vintage year, and that's not counting its Die Fledermaus, which, favourite work of mine as it is, I couldn't bear to see again in that production. Così fan tutte, on the other hand, I couldn't bear not to see, having been at the first night in Glyndebourne last May, and felt there that, in the face of the hottest competition, it was the finest production of this infinitely subtle and probing comedy that I have ever seen. Not only did Glyndebourne on Tour match the home team, all told it surpassed it, and the result was an evening of simply unparalleled satisfaction -- whether the hundreds of pre-teen schoolchildren who, incredibly, were taken to this of all works, felt the same I couldn't say.

This production is set in the time da Ponte and Mozart envisaged. Both the sets and costumes by Vicki Mortimer are beautiful, also swift to move, so that there are minimal gaps between scenes, which is crucial. Nicholas Hytner's direction, revived by Samantha Potter, is ideal. There is no underlining of significances, but nothing that matters is overlooked. The naturalness with which the sisters relate to one another, and equally their lovers, is of an order you very rarely see on the operatic stage. I suppose some people might complain that not only is this Così not played for laughs, but that there are almost no laughs in it, apart from those which accompany Despina as doctor and notary. My own feeling is that there is very little place in this opera for laughter, and that the much-commentedupon artificiality, or, as some would have it, preposterousness of the plot, is just a brilliantly economical way of setting up a situation in which profound questions -- the most profound -- about the nature and durability of feelings are raised, and given highly unpalatable answers. If we are amused, it is the amusement of embarrassment and discomfiture: for the terrible truth is revealed, that we have no way of telling how genuine and therefore (? ) how long-lasting our feelings are, at any rate when they are involved in the most intimate way with biological urges.

These utterly typical youngsters take them at their face value, not that there is much else they can do. And that means that at the close we, and they, would be close to tragedy if anyone had acquired self-knowledge. This lot think that they end wiser than they began, while all that has really happened is that Don Alfonso has taught them to parrot idiotic lies about how happy you will be if you guide your life by reason. …

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