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Cosi Fan Tutte — A Fragrant Operatic Bouquet

The colourful orchestrations of Mozart’s classic satirical opera Cosi Fan Tutte bloomed once more upon St Andrews Chamber Opera Group’s full-length operatic debut on the 24th March. Surrounded by the beautiful acoustics of the McPherson recital room at Laidlaw, the group received rapturous applause for the sold-out production infused with the delicate and divine.

The group which was formed in 2022, having produced Menotti’s The Telephone and a Christmas concert, seamlessly progressed to tackling the feat of one of Opera’s most cherished relics. Translated into English, the satirical opera of love, deception and disguise, sees outright misogynist Don Alfonso encourage his friends Ferrando and Guglielmo to test their fiancees Dorabella and Fiordiligi’s fidelity, erupting into a classic Mozartian kaleidoscope of satire and romance.

The Pandora’s box of a story was neatly navigated by director Isabelle Cory, who in her operatic directorial debut, ensured her performers sailed right across the intimate performance space, nestled into the corner of the recital room. The intimate staging alongside the performers’ movement to the front rows, immersed the audience into an opera which, though composed in 1789, felt undoubtedly contemporary. Watching from the front row, I have no doubts that Cory breathed a sigh of relief at her creative vision coming to fruition.

Mozart’s orchestrations are not plain-sailing, yet on Friday evening, a novice would’ve been otherwise unconvinced after witnessing répétiteur Michael Chamberlain at the helm. Leading a small group of musicians, Chamberlain cast his magic from the piano, with what I can only assume was the spirit of Mozart himself guiding him along the way. With an air of precision, Chamberlain etched his mark on the opera.

Founding member Brannon Liston-Smith’s Don Alfonso, dressed in a long dark coat and beanie, dominated the stage with a pompous demeanour which he augmented with his rich baritone voice. Fellow baritone Theo Mackenzie and tenor Diego Del Ser who played characters Guglielmo and Ferrando, complimented each other with their vocally polished performances as the two bachelors; both equally as charming.

However, like freshly picked flowers were the giggling duo of mezzo-soprano Millie Haldane as Dorabella alongside sister Fiordiligi played by soprano Rachel Munro. Their comic maudlin interactions, including a hilarious drunken scene, were combined effortlessly with sparkling vocals that soared up to the roof of Laidlaw. The pair joined by Liston Smith gave a tour-de-force performance in the farewell trio: ‘Soave sia il vento’, a standout from the evening.

Aside from the pair, was founding member soprano Emily Kemp as sharp-witted secretary Despina, who tells the scorned sisters to embrace their fiancees’ absence. Kemp’s crystal clear vocals were juxtaposed with an air of sass, forming a character exuding with confidence and energy. Kemp’s mischievous partnership with Liston-Smith, provided yet another comic duo that the audience took in their stride.

Gauging the audience’s resounding applause and standing ovation, one can conclude that the opera group has blossomed indefinitely. After seeing this display of student-led excellence, I have no doubts that their next production will be another roaring success.

An unmitigated triumph.

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