Cosi Fan Tutte at the Whip Theatre
Cosi Fan Tutte was first performed at the Burgtheatre in Vienna – an imperial court theatre shrouded in ornate architecture. Last night’s rendition of Mozart’s whimsical opera buffa from the Pop–up Opera company could not have been housed in a more contrasting setting. Hidden above a bustling Mayfair pub, The Whip cocktail bar is a small yet charming space full of eccentrically patterned furnishings, colourful hunting portraits and an array of mismatched furniture. Squeezed between a finely upholstered bar and a grand fireplace, the singers inventively navigate this intimate environment, enacting the young lovers’ farcical escapades in the most restricted of spaces.
Young beaus Ferrando and Guglielmo profess true love for their fiancés Dorabella and Fiodiligi, commending their beauty and, above all, their eternal fidelity. Cynical butler, Don Alfonso, doubts the women’s faithfulness and challenges the men to a bet which will prove that their sweethearts, like all women, are unfaithful when temptation is in their grasp. Pretending they have been sent to war, Ferrando and Gulielmo disguise themselves and each attempts to woo the other’s lover. Hilarity and full-blown farce ensue as the two men, helped along by the cunning Don Alfonso, deceive the women in a series of conniving tricks.
Despite the lack of a chorus, the small cast of six tell Mozart’s absurd story with comic brilliance and elegant charm. The opera’s intimacy astounds as the singers pace in between the audience, singing with pealing vibratos mere inches from our faces and use us to help tell the tale. The scenery may feel slightly make-shift and the costumes a little slap-dash, but the singing brims with polished authenticity. Sung in the original Italian with silent movie style captions helpfully, and wittily, explaining the action, each performer adroitly navigates Mozart’s dexterous score.
Eve Daniell is particularly brilliant as Fiordiligi: her warm timbre and vibrant characterisation are enthralling to watch, while Chloe Hilton as Dorabella masterfully captures the music. Alexander Learmonth is perfect as the scheming Don Alfonso, his rich baritone artfully underpinned with wit and charisma, and Berrak Dyers piano accompaniment is beautifully played with colourful vibrancy.
The real delight of this production is its ability to crush the usual haughty perceptions of opera. The Pop-up team prove that this is not an inaccessible genre reserved for an elite few, but an intimate, jovial affair brimming with laughs and wonders from beginning to end.
Cosi Fan Tutte is on at a variety of locations until 31st July 2014. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.
Watch Pop-up Opera’s taster video here: