2001/02 Season's Concerts
Eighteenth Season

29 September 2001London Opera Players
24 November 2001Alexandra Wood (violin)
19 January 2002The Gonzaga Band
2 March 2002Philip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips

London Opera Players

Cosi fan tutte

Conductor: Charles Farncombe

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Cosi fan tutte - in brief
Cosi fan tutte - the story
The Characters

About The Company
Press Review
Other Press Comments

Cosi fan tutte - Mozart

Mozart’s delightful comic opera Cosi fan Tutte contains some of his most ravishing music. Supposedly based on a true story, the opera tells how the wily Don Alfonso sets out to prove that it is against a woman’s nature to be faithful - “cosi fan tutte” - “all women are alike”.   In order to win his bet he persuades two young men to try, in disguise, to court each other’s girl-friend.   Through the unfolding of the opera we see just how well he succeeds.

John Ramster’s stylish production Cosi fan Tutte has been a big success wherever it has played and has been well received both by audiences and by the critics, including the prestigious Opera magazine.

Two sisters are betrothed to two young officers who swear that their sweethearts would never be unfaithful to them. Their cynical old friend wagers that he can prove them wrong. Will he succeed?

Written after Don Giovanni and before Mozart's final masterpiece The Magic Flute, Cosi contains some of the composer's most ravishing music.  

This delightful production is directed by John Ramster with designs by Peter McKintosh.


Cosi fan tutte - the story

Naples, late 1700s, early morning. Two young officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, boast about the beauty and virtue of their sweethearts, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi ("La mia Dorabella"). Don Alfonso, an older man and a friend of the two officers, insists that a woman's constancy is like the Arabian phoenix - everyone says it exists but no one has ever seen it ("È la fede delle femmine"). He proposes a wager of one hundred sequins that if they give him one day, and do everything he asks, he will prove the sisters are like all other women - fickle. The two young men willingly agree to Alfonso's terms and imagine with pleasure how they will spend their winnings ("Una bella serenata").

Fiordiligi and Dorabella gaze blissfully at their miniature portraits of Guglielmo and Ferrando ("Ah, guarda sorella"), and imagine happily that they will soon be married. Alfonso's plan for the day begins when he arrives with terrible news: the young officers have been called away to their regiment. The two men appear, apparently heartbroken, and they all make elaborate farewells ("Sento, o dio"). As the soldiers leave, the two women and Alfonso wish them a safe journey ("Soave sia il vento"). Alfonso is delighted with his plot and feels certain of winning his wager.

As Despina complains about how much work she has to do around the house, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, upset by the departure of their fiancés, burst in. Dorabella vents her feelings ("Smanie implacabili"), but Despina's advice is to forget their old lovers with the help of new ones. All men are fickle, she says, and unworthy of a woman's fidelity ("In uomini, in soldati"). Her mistresses resent Despina's approach to love, and depart. Alfonso arrives to plan the next stage of his wager: he enlists Despina's help to introduce the girls to two exotic visitors, in fact Ferrando and Guglielmo in disguise, and is relieved when Despina does not recognize the two men. The sisters are scandalized to discover strange men in their house. The newcomers declare their admiration for the ladies, each wooing the other's girlfriend, according to Alfonso's design, but the girls reject them. Fiordiligi likens her constancy to a rock in a storm ("Come scoglio"). The men are confident of winning the bet, but Alfonso reminds them that the day is still young. Ferrando reiterates his passion for Dorabella ("Un'aura amorosa"), and the two go off to await Alfonso's further orders. Despina, still unaware of the men's identities, plans the afternoon with Alfonso.

As the sisters lament the absence of their lovers, the two "foreigners" stagger in, pretending to have poisoned themselves in despair over their rejection. The sisters call for Despina, who urges them to care for the men while she and Alfonso fetch a doctor. Despina re-enters disguised as a doctor and, with a special magnet, pretends to draw off the poison. She then demands that the girls nurse the patients as they recover. The men revive ("Dove son?"), and request kisses. As Fiordiligi and Dorabella waver under renewed protestations of love, the men begin to worry.

In the afternoon, Despina lectures her mistresses on their stubbornness and describes how a woman should handle men ("Una donna a quindici anni"). Dorabella is persuaded that there could be no harm in a little flirtation, and surprisingly, Fiordiligi agrees. They decide who will pair off with whom, and fitting perfectly into Alfonso's plan, each picks the other's original suitor ("Prenderò quel brunettino").

Alfonso has arranged a romantic serenade for the sisters in the garden, and after delivering a short lesson in courtship, he and Despina leave the four young people together. Guglielmo, courting Dorabella, succeeds in replacing her portrait of Ferrando with a golden heart ("Il core vi dono"). Ferrando apparently has less luck with Fiordiligi ("Ah, lo veggio"); but when she is left alone, she guiltily admits he has touched her heart ("Per pietà").

When they compare notes later, Ferrando is certain that they have won the wager. Guglielmo, although pleased at the report of Fiordiligi's faithfulness to him, is uncertain how to break the news of Dorabella's inconstancy to Ferrando. He shows his friend the portrait he took from Dorabella and Ferrando is furious. Guglielmo blames it all on women ("Donne mie, la fate a tanti!"), but his friend is not comforted ("Tradito, schernito"). Guglielmo asks Alfonso to pay him his half of the winnings, but Alfonso reminds him again that the day is not yet over.

Fiordiligi rebukes Dorabella for being fickle, but finally admits that in her heart she has succumbed to the stranger. Dorabella coaxes her to give way completely, saying love is a thief who rewards those who obey him and punishes all others ("È amore un ladroncello"). Left alone, Fiordiligi decides to run away and join Guglielmo at war, but Ferrando, pursuing the wager, tries one last time to seduce her and succeeds.

Guglielmo is furious, but Alfonso counsels forgiveness: that's the way women are, he claims, and a man who has been deceived can blame only himself ("Tutti accusan le donne"). As night falls, he promises to find a solution to their problems: he plans a double-wedding.

Despina runs in with a double-wedding plan of her own: the two sisters have agreed to marry the "foreigners," and she is to find a notary for the ceremony. The scene is set for the marriage, and Alfonso arrives with the notary - Despina in another disguise. As Fiordiligi and Dorabella sign the contract, martial strains herald the return of the former lovers' regiment. In panic the two women hide their intended husbands and try to compose themselves for the arrival of Ferrando and Guglielmo. The two apparently joyful soldiers return, but soon become disturbed by the obvious discomfort of the ladies. When they discover the notary the sisters beg the two men to kill them. Ferrando and Guglielmo reveal to them the identities of the "foreigners." Despina realizes that Alfonso had let her in on only half of the charade and tries to escape. Alfonso bids the lovers learn their lesson and, with a hymn to reason and enlightenment, the day comes to a close.

The Characters
Ferrando a young officer Cato Fordham
Guglielmo his friend and brother officer Peter Grevatt
Don Alfonso an elderly philosopher Hubert Matthews
Fiordiligi sweetheart of Guglielmo Anita Morrison
Dorabella her sister, Ferrando's sweetheart Tania Williams
Despina maid to the sisters Michaela Davies


About the Company

In the year 2000 London Opera Players has been on the road for fifty years, taking opera sung in English and fully produced in costume to thousands of people who might otherwise have had no chance of experiencing it live, and wherever possible enhancing the impact by including local children and adults in our performances. We are proud that we inaugurated small-scale touring opera in Britain in 1950, thus contributing to the growth in popularity and understanding of this art form, and doing so largely without Arts Council subsidy.

The company, founded by pianist Phyllis Thorold and  soprano Elisabeth Parry in 1950, gave their first eight performances, short versions of “Hansel and Gretel” and  “La Boheme”, with narrator, four singers and pianist, in London schools and were so well received that the Arts Council sent the company out to tour music clubs in the New Year of 1951.  At the time the idea of reduced versions of opera fully produced in costume was a complete novelty, and the company’s performances were enjoyed by hundreds of people who would never otherwise have seen live opera.  In five years the number of performances given annually more than quadrupled. Young singers were eager to join the company and gain experience in leading roles, also to work with Peter Gellhorn, who is still the company’s distinguished Music Director, splendidly assisted now by Margaret Brownbridge.  Today the list of well-known singers who gained vital performing experience with the company is long and impressive.

In 1963 the company became a registered charity, thus becoming eligible for grants from the Arts Council and charitable trusts, and in 1971 it celebrated its 21st birthday by commissioning a children’s opera, “Dr Musikus”, by Anthony Hopkins.  A second children’s opera, “The Pig Organ” by Richard Blackford with libretto by Ted Hughes, was commissioned in 1979 and presented in conjunction with the Royal Opera House at the Round House in London early in 1980. Today the company, now known as London Opera Players, presents lively productions of full-length standard repertoire operas, available with chamber orchestra, quintet or piano, as well as workshops and special interactive productions for children, and its performances continue to delight new audiences and old friends throughout the country.

In September 2000 Eleanor Farncombe was appointed as the new General Manager of London Opera Players. Eleanor has a wealth of experience in opera, having worked in Stage Management and sung in leading German opera houses.

Patrons of London Opera Players have included Sir Robert and Lady Mayer, Benjamin Britten, J. B. Priestley, Sir Geraint Evans, Lord Redcliffe-Maud and Sir Isaiah Berlin.  


Press Review

"Effervescent production:  LondonOpera, in association with South Holland Concerts and South Holland District Council, presented this ravishing comedy.
The beautifully balanced cast - two pairs of lovers plus one pair of worldly wise cynics - developed the plot with subtlety and panache.
Anita Morrison's Fiordiligl tackled the opera's showpiece aria "Ah, my love, forgive my madness" with warmth and fine technique.  Hubert Matthews was delightfully scheming, manipulative and in fine voice as Alfonso while Michaela Davies, as Despina, tackled the variety of her roles with impish humour and a range of disguises.
Ferrando.Guglielmo and Dorabella were equally well cast and in delightful voice.
Perhaps the finest contribution was provided by Charles Farncombe, who conducted the orchestra with insight and sensitivity. 
Touring companies have many problems, not least with providing the appropriate staging.  This classically simple setting provided the right background to enable us to concentrate on the performance.
The costumes were colourful and delightfully in character.
An effervescent production was enjoyed by a near capacity audience to warm applause.
As long as Spalding audiences can be entertained like this both South Holland District Council and South Holland Concerts are to be congratulated.  MICHAEL CALLAGHAN"

Press Comments

".. the result was always attractive and often sparkling... the stage performances flowed smoothly on an orchestral accompaniment that was stylish, relaxed, but purposeful ... the recitative flowed crisp and clear" - OPERA

"There are few if any performances where performances by both singers and players combine to produce such high standard as that provided by the London Opera Players" - MONMOUTHSHIRE BEACON

"... this small scale touring company sent first night audiences away uplifted and delighted..."
EXPRESS AND ECHO, October 1997

Solihull Library Theatre 

“Only the fortunate few can afford a box at the Royal Opera House - most people have to content themselves with a seat “up in the gods”.   But if squinting through misty binoculars is not your idea of a decent night’s entertainment there is an alternative.   The London Opera Players brought a small scale production of Cosi fan Tutte to Solihull Library Theatre and demonstrated that large ladies and big wigs are not essential to the opera experience.  ….The Company concentrated on Mozart’s mischievous humour and delicate harmonies, relying on their musical and theatrical abilities….The whole performance was remarkably intimate - the Players…brought the essence of Mozart to Solihull.”

 Cricklade Theatre Andover

 “…Thursday’s performance was an outstanding success.  This was a new production of Cosi fan Tutte, sung in excellent translation by Ruth and Thomas Martin, and given virtually complete, lacking only the minor part for the chorus.  ….   The production was perfectly cast…the two sisters were adorable…..the lovers…sang boldly.  Ferrando’s tender serenade was particularly fine.  …. This was a light-hearted interpretation, with much tongue-in-cheek indignation, and much playing to the audience, involving them and almost inviting their participation.  Another success for Andover Music Club.”   NEWBURY WEEKLY NEWS

 St. Teilo’s Church, Llantilio Crosseny (Llantilio Crosseny Festival)

 “You are much more likely to get a revelatory performance of Cosi fan Tutte from a tightly-knit team of Mozartian singers with a keen sense of musical characterisation under an experienced conductor than from a miscellaneous collection of stars doing their own thing.  The former was the recipe at the Llantilio Crosseny Festival, and….the result was always attractive and often sparkling.  John Ramster’s production was lively but happily free of self-indulgence….the stage performance flowed smoothly on an orchestral accompaniment that was stylish, relaxed and purposeful…..The recitatives flowed crisp and clear.”    OPERA

 Sir Robert Martin Theatre Loughborough

Cosi fan Tutte, performed at Loughborough, was a well integrated affair that allowed unimpeded access to the world of Da Ponte and Mozart……The producer, John Ramster, concentrated on a straightforward unfolding of the tale with well planned groupings of the six characters.   Costumes….were stylish and consistent.   Singing was of a commendable standard….”     OPERA

Northcott Theatre, Exeter

“Outstanding….the ensembles were well performed.   A pleasure throughout….an entertaining and enjoyable evening”         THE JOURNAL

“…This small-scale touring company sent first-night audiences away uplifted”    EXPRESS AND ECHO

Jersey Arts Centre

“Among Mozart’s greatest operas Don Giovanni is heavily flavoured with darkness and evil, The Magic Flute with mysticism and the exotic, and Figaro with the poignancy of love lost and regained.   Cosi fan Tutte,by comparison is a mere romp.  It is, however, a romp set against the background of some of Mozart’s most appealing music. ….Nothing can match the experience of hearing [the music] unfold in the theatrical setting for which it was always intended.  That is why few people who went to the Arts Centre to see the London Opera Players’ production of Cosi will have been disappointed.   This was a delightful version of the work, sung in English with great gusto. … The collective performance given by the London Opera Players … made it easy to become totally absorbed in what was going on.  All the singers were commendable.  JERSEY EVENING POST

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford

“London Opera Players produced a light and frothy performance of Cosi fan Tutte at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.  ...  Musically the production was excellent…The production was neatly designed [and] the whole opera hung together well….     SURREY ADVERTISER

“Guildford were treated to the London Opera Players production of Cosi fan Tutte at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre recently.  Founded in 1950, LOP are a small-scale professional opera company and very much a spring-board for many of the great names who are now nationally and internationally known.   Small they may be, but the quality of their productions and the power [of their] performance is immense.  … The singing was superb….Great entertainment from a small company which justly deserved the warm accolade it received from a packed house.”   THE HERALD    

"... a tightly knit team of Mozartian singers with a keen sense of musical characterisation..." - OPERA, August 1996

"Range, beauty and power demonstrated in arias" - THE JOURNAL

"... An operatic romp ... The singing was superb" - THE HERALD

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