COSÌ FAN TUTTE | London, Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is not an easy watch in the era of #MeToo. The title means something like, “All Women Do It”, betraying antequated ideas about sex and immorality. But in this revival of director Jan Philipp Gloger’s metatheatrical production, sisters Fiordigli (played with sparkling energy by Salome Jicia) and Dorabella (exquisitely sung by an affecting Serena Malfi) are aware of the deception from the outset. The central question then becomes: How do women do it? How do they cope?

The production takes place after a performance of Così fan tutte, as two couples of opera-goers applaud a camp set of bows and quickly descend into boasting about the fidelity of their lovers. We watch with new eyes, as Ferrando (a lyrical Paolo Fanale) and Guglielmo (a bouyant and powerful Gyula Orendt) test the fidelity of their fiancés, but in doing so become the bigger dupes.

Not only do they lose their bet to the old sexist cynic Don Alfonso (played by a delightfully cranky Sir Thomas Allen), they lose the trust of their fiancés from the first. Ferrando’s hopeful pean to love, “Un’aura amorosa”, becomes all the more innocent knowing that he too was being deceived. Similarly, Dorabella’s seduction has all the more weight given her agency. Saucy maid Despina (Serena Gamberoni) is charmingly invidious.

The metatheatrics feature prominently in the fantastic set design (Ben Baur), including a pulley-operated steam train and a portable Tree of Knowledge. While it remains hard to sympathise with a regressive plot, the metatheatrical hijinx and Mozart’s timeless music still make for a thrilling night of entertainment.

Così fan tutte plays until 16 March 2019.

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