Staged in a pop-up theatre in the stable courtyard of the castle grounds, Lismore Opera Festival’s Cosi Fan Tutte draws us straight into a bright, horsey world peopled with characters resonant of Jilly Cooper’s saucy chick lit novel, Riders.
Despite WC Fields warning, the presence of animals as extras has a tradition in opera. In Lismore, two scene-stealing equine heads look out over stable half-doors as the opera’s crucial wager is settled before our jodhpur clad protagonists saddle up leaving their tearful girlfriends . The plot hinges on whether the ladies will prove faithful when put to the test of being seduced by each other’s disguised fiancés.
It is high-spirited stuff delivered with wit and style. The dual language device of recitatives in colloquial English and arias in Italian worked very well in keeping the audience up with the twists and turns of the plot and I didn’t miss the crutch of subtitles.
All of the individual performers were very strong with a good balance of sound across the ensemble. Rachel Croash as Fiordiligi impressed in her first full length Mozart role. Michelle Daly’s characterisation of the more flighty younger sister, Dorabella, was nicely contrasting. Sandra Oman was terrific as the cynical, Pimm’s-swilling old maid, Despina. Gavan Ring as a swaggering Guglielmo and Nicholas Ransley as a more earnest Ferrando made a handsome pair. stage. American bass-baritone, Damon Nestor Ploumis. who serves as both singer and director is an imposing DonAlfonso. Conducting from the harpsichord, Killian Farrell, showed firm control at the reins of the ten-piece orchestra.
In seven years of opera, Lismore has not always enjoyed fair weather. But on Friday, the winds were gentle and the castle gardens looked enchanting. A success all round.