Wednesday, May 30, 2007

REVIEW: Cosi Fan Tutte (RDS Concert Hall, Dublin)

Gavin Quinn, a founding member of PanPan, easily one of the country’s most mercurial and inventive theatre companies, seems like a sound creative choice by Opera Ireland to direct Cosi Fan Tutte.

Last year, Quinn finally completed an elaborate plan to co-produce a version of Playboy of the Western World with a Chinese company. In Mandarin. After which, a dip into Italian for Mozart’s fizzy, but unapologetically unenlightened opera should present no great hurdle.

As it happens, Quinn’s production is every bit as playful as could be expected, though something short of an anarchic assault on the operatic form. The action has been updated to the present, or, to a certain vision of it: Quinn’s boys all like football, and are happy to bare their bums, or serve as UN Peacekeepers; his girls like boozing and shopping, and indulge in pilates only under protest.

The RDS Concert Hall lets Quinn, all the same, mess around, just a little. The action wanders off the stage occasionally, to stroll through the book-lined hall, the lovers picking out volumes to read, or Guglielmo (Josef Wagner) to ply his wares flirtatiously with the crowd, walking among them and throwing silky pink underwear to the occasional lucky soul.

Bruno Schwengl’s set, too, is economic, but with plenty of smart good humour. The small stage of the RDS is clearly not the place for extravagant gestures, but the production gets plenty of mileage out of enormous chunky versions of the letters L O V & E, which become bartops and seats, beds, hammocks and stages at various times.

Performances from Mary Bowen (Dorabella) and Sara Galli (Fiordiligi) are particularly appealing, with their almost slapstick physical antics contrasting brightly with the precision and sweetness of their voices.

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