Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Red Shoes - a.k.a. Cosi fan tutte

Phew - I have something in common with Dorabella, even if I can't sing. Opening night of Cosi fan tutte chez Glyndebourne yesterday; there's Fiordiligi in blue and Dorabella in red and cream with marvellous red suede shoes, and as coincidence would have it I'd donned my favourite scarlet tango heels for the occasion. I hope this serendipitous little incident helped to dispel the dazzlement of the delectable Rinat Shaham upon my starry-eyed resident fiddler, who had a rare night in the auditorium (some of the violins are doing job-shares in Cosi, as it requires too few of them) and was keen to see the reincarnation of his favourite Carmen.

Besides the shoes, Cosi is a treat: a period production by Nicholas Hytner with a light touch and some superb moments - notably that the men in their disguises get nowhere wooing their own fiancees, but when they swap, the sparks begin to fly, rather to their dismay. And soon after giving the girls the advice to 'have your cake and eat it', Despina brings in tea with a real cake - chocolate. Dorabella tucks in. Fiordiligi stares at it in horror, as if one mouthful might kill her...

The cast was largely unfamiliar to me (apart from Rini); particularly striking was the powerful tenor of Pavol Breslik as Ferrando and the characterful Despina of Ainhoa Garmendia. Rachel Harnisch as Fiordiligi hadn't been feeling well for the dress rehearsal and had marked the role, with her understudy singing; it could be that yesterday she wasn't quite at full strength. I hope to hear her again later in the season.

Best of all, though, was the orchestra. Our own LPO - conducted by the newest and youngest of all the baby Rattles on the circuit. Robin Ticciati has recently been appointed music director of Glyndebourne On Tour; he has a post in Gavle, Sweden, as well; and he looks all of 12 years old, though is around 25, with copious Simonesque curls. A few seconds into the overture, I found myself sitting forward thinking 'heck...?!' This was truly musical conducting; airy, smooth, stylish. Joined-up thinking and moving was taking place on that podium. Ticciati looks like a dancer, phrases like a singer and balances his ingredients like a masterchef. In terms of preparation and polish with cast and chorus, he maybe has some way to go - but I reckon his destination includes some interesting, exceedingly high-up places.

A video of the production is available, filmed last year with Ivan Fischer conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

At some point, I'll find a knife to stick in the notion that the plummiest of vibrating singers (and this lot are plummy) must be accompanied in Mozart by that lean-mean-string-thing, that silly period-practice-equals-no-vibrato tokenism... But for now, Dorabella must have left the knife in her cake; and the sun shone. It was a great evening.