Flat Pack Music present a modern adaptation in English of Mozart’s famous two-act comic opera for their debut performance in Liverpool and they do not disappoint with this hilarious production from Musical Director Tom Newall and Director Lorna Rushton.
The story begins with an old cynic and philosopher, Don Alfonso (Mark Rawlinson), betting two young soldiers, Ferrando (Joseph Buckmaster) and Guglielmo (Matthew Mannion), that their respective fiancées, Dorabella (Helen Anne Gregory) and Fiordiligi (Heather Heighway), will not stay faithful if put to the test. The two young men accept the bet and pretend to depart for the front line whilst secretly returning in disguise and under the direction of Don Alfonso, ably assisted by a maid, Despina (Sarah Williamson), they attempt to woo each other’s other half. Cosi fan Tutte – ‘all women are like that’ – is the challenge set down. The question is though: are they?
This was a superb production, full of good humour and engagement with the audience. The modern interpretation worked well making location and characters recognisable immediately to the audience whose appreciation was then enhanced further with the English translation by Chris Gill, which retained a lyrical quality that is not usually present in surtitles and allowed the cast to perform to their best – and they were all at their best. Despite this being a comedy, it touches upon the emotional anguish we face when love is presented or challenged, and two particular standout moments for me were Heighway’s solo as she agonises over her love for the departed Guglielmo and her newly discovered feelings for the disguised Ferrando; and Buckmaster’s solo as he tries to reconcile his upset at an apparent state of affairs versus his love for Dorabella. Mannion somewhat stole the show with his mischievous moustache, worn as part of his disguise, that kept coming off and that he then cleverly worked into the comedy of the play, all of which was perfectly complemented by his powerful solo and singing throughout.
I’m a big fan of The Casa as a venue but it does throw up some challenges which if not properly considered can confuse a performance, so it was refreshing to see that Flat Pack Music had done their homework and used the space to its best effect leaving the audience with a fully immersive operatic experience that other venues wouldn’t be able to offer. The icing on the cake was the live piano accompaniment from Robert Chesters who arguably had the hardest job on the night and, with nowhere to hide, performed flawlessly throughout and received much deserved applause at the end of the evening.
Flat Pack Music aims to bring Opera and Classical Music to the wider public in a fresh and original way that showcases not only the depth of the music, but also the comedy and the drama in equal measure. They want to present opera in a relaxed way that people can readily enjoy; they want newcomers to fall in love with the music, drama and excitement of opera, and for old hands to enjoy a new take on old favourites. With English libretto’s they find that it gets to the heart of the action, which audiences can understand and enjoy. Further details including their upcoming productions can be found at https://www.facebook.com/FlatPackMusicSeries/
The Casa Bar and Venue at 29 Hope Street is at the heart of the University/Theatre district. Further details available at http://www.initiativefactory.org/
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 19th April 2018