BBC Proms reviews

Prom 6: Mozart – Così fan tutte @ Royal Albert Hall, London

An empty auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall

An empty auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall (Photo: Christie Goodwin/Royal Albert Hall)

The Albert Hall was practically full – on the hottest night of the year – for Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s annual visit to the Proms. After last year’s knock-out performance of Giulio Cesare, this season’s transfer of Nick Hytner’s production of Mozart’s Cos fan tutte had a lot to live up to. It certainly didn’t provide quite the same magic, in the end, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable and entertaining occasion.

Samantha Potter restaged the production for the Proms, and here was one of the big problems. The action was heavily confined, with the singers bunched together too densely and often singing into the stage rather than out to the vast audience. It wasn’t wise having the singing take place on a raised platform behind the orchestra, either, because it meant the sound was lost at the back rather than projected upwards and outwards. Nevertheless, Vicki Mortimer‘s props and costumes did a reasonably efficient job of evoking some kind of context.

Were it not for the Fiordiligi of Miah Persson, the review rating would be three stars. As it is, her nearly immaculate contribution to events was worth the price of admission. Although she doesn’t quite have the low notes for ‘Come scoglio’, the middle and upper registers are a miracle, and ‘Per piet’ was also superb. She projected her voice far better than the other artists, she dominated the ensembles and in general she has the creamy tone and flexibility that Mozart’s vocal music requires.

Her sister Dorabella was nevertheless quite attractively sung and acted by Anke Vondung. In particular her Act 2 aria and the sisters’ duet from that act showed a growth of confidence and an increase of warmth in her voice. The other singer of note was Luca Pisaroni as Guglielmo. He has a true Mozart voice, with an aristocratic edge, and in the second act his solo number was strikingly virtuosic.

To complete the quartet of lovers, Topi Lehtipuu sang the tenor part of Ferrando. He was not entirely satisfactory, showing too much vibrato and not enough legato in a dull and slow rendition of ‘Un’aura amorosa’, but there was some beautiful singing with both the sisters and his voice shows potential.

More drastic was the ultra-bland Don Alfonso of Nicolas Rivenq. Perhaps it was the intention to portray a sophisticated philosopher by having a younger singer take the role, complete with an elegantly-cut costume. Yet he just stood about most of the time, having no impact on the progress of the story at all, and Rivenq’s voice was weak for much of the evening as well.

Similarly, Ainhoa Garmendia was a disappointment as Despina, especially after Lillian Watson at Holland Park and Nuccia Focile at Covent Garden in recent times. Garmendia’s voice is sweet and charming, but too small for this acoustic, and somehow her placid bearing did not make the character believable. And her disguises as the medic and notary were quite poorly sung and acted (though the costumes didn’t help).

Although he flagged a bit in the middle of Act 1, Ivan Fischer led a vigorous and fresh account of the score, which was played with verve by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. It was a pleasure to hear the raw string sound in this music, which sounded edgier as a result. They were also very sensitive accompanists to the very varied cast.

In all, it was a fun and engaging, if not particularly memorable, evening. But Persson’s Fiordiligi confirms once more that this is a name to look out for in the future.

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