Pros: The unique contrast between the rather unassuming venue and the outstanding level of skill from the performers.
Cons: The show is in the original Italian. This might make it a touch inaccessible for opera newbies.
Cosi Fan Tutte is one of Mozart’s most well known operas. First performed in 1790 in Vienna for emperor Joseph II, it is now on a tour of England under the direction of Pop Up Opera. I had the good luck of catching a show at the Tea House Theatre.
The Tea House is right next to Pleasure Gardens in Vauxhall. Definitely a perfect spot to enjoy a delicious cup of tea, yet a rather unexpected use of a small, modest space for hosting such an incredible group of talented performers and musicians.
To set the scene, the actual theatre area looked like Grandma’s living room had been cleared out to make space for the stage props, including a line of chairs alongside piles of teacups and all sorts of vintage memorabilia. The performing area per se had a couple of small sofas, the title ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ shining on the wall in a silent-movie lettering style and the piano to the right of stage.
The first thing that came to mind when the performance started . . . what an incredible surprise! Mozart came thoroughly to life through the hands of pianist Berrak Dyer as the cast appeared in WW1 clothing. It was beautiful!
In terms of plot, Dorabella and Ferrando (Chloe Hinton and Adam Torrence), Fiordiligi and Guglielmo (Eve Daniell and Samuel Pantcheff) were all very much in love. However, Alfonso (Alexander Learmonth) the cunning butler did not trust the girls, holding an ardent belief in the fickle nature of women. He bet Ferrando and Guglielmo that if they told their lovers they had to leave for the Great War, Fiordiligi and Dorabella’s love towards them will be forgotten within 24 hours. And so, there were tears and more tears as the men ‘departed’ to fight. Dorabella was in such a state she threatened to kill herself, but luckily for her, two handsome Albanians appeared and proceeded to court them (their two lovers in disguise!). This time, Guglielmo chased Dorabella as Ferrando ran after Fiordigli. Both trying to prove, as Alfsonso said, that ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’: they are all the same.
Mozart is all about having fun. With such a hilarious plot and incredible performances, this was easily achieved. I was in tears from laughter at the insane situations the male protagonists put the girls through and then in tears from the emotional, amazing singing. Even if you’re not familiar with the plot itself, it is very easy to follow. The program gives a detailed description of the different scenes and a projector is used to give insight into the moment. For example: as Ferrando and Guglielmo leave for war we have the usual goodbye number (‘Soave Sia Il Vento’) and as the girls ask them to stay, the projection hilariously reads: ‘Can we at least Skype?’
The only downside I could think of (which didn’t actually really affect audience) was that the opera ran the way it was intended to, almost three and a half hours, in the original Italian. This may put you off but my advice would be to give it a go! Pop Up Opera have done an insanely talented job at making the piece accessible for everyone.
Mozart and opera are awesome! Go to Pop Up Opera’s Cosi Fan Tutte if you don’t believe me.
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Stage Director: Darren Royston
Musical Director: Berrak Dyer
Producer: Clementine Lovell
Co-Producer: Fiona Johnson
Touring throughout England during Summer 2014
For information on sites and shows visit: popupopera.co.uk