“May the wind be gentle”, they sing, as Guglielmo and Ferrando depart, supposedly to war in Act 1 of Mozart’s Così fan tutte. The wind was certainly not gentle on the opening night of Glyndebourne’s revival of Nicholas Hytner’s 2006 production, buffeting those intrepid picnickers who persevered, in a typical example of that bizarre eccentricity that is part of the country house opera scene, with their al fresco smoked salmon and champagne. The grey skies of the exterior made an ideal contrast with the gorgeously atmospheric colour of the set within; glowing colours of apricot and peach to begin, a rich blue at the end.

Julie Boulianne (Dorabella) and Ida Falk Winland (Fiordiligi)
© Tristram Kenton

Hytner’s production does not seek to startle or disturb, at least on the surface – there are no dubious updates here, but a resolutely period setting. In her excellent programme essay, Katherine Cooper writes on the darker elements beneath the comedy of the opera and it is with these that Hytner prods the audience. The casual cruelty of Don Alfonso – an implication of bitterness is made, perhaps at a past betrayal of his own – is the impetus behind the events here, rather than anything more sporting and trivial. It’s a worthy approach, but in this run, overseen by revival director Simon Iorio, the balance seems skewed too heavily towards the serious at the expense of the comic. This, combined with some rather staid Personenregie, leaves the first act somewhat limp, despite the best efforts of a sparky Despina on whom a little too much reliance seems to be placed to lighten proceedings. Things improve in the second act where the quartet of lovers seem to warm into their roles and find the comedy.

Alessandro Corbelli (Don Alfonso)
© Tristram Kenton

Weighing down the production is the rather leaden interpretation of conductor Riccardo Minasi which desperately needs some fizz. Lethargic tempi and a general lack of pizzazz left the performance without any impetus and the whole thing cried out for a little energy. On the first night, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment seemed unusually unpolished with several quite noticeable fluffs; no doubt these will be ironed out as the production continues.

Hera Hyesang Park (Despina)
© Tristram Kenton

This revival does benefit from creditable singing across the board. Hera Hyesang Park, our aforementioned sparky Despina, was excellent, showing a versatile, light soprano that sparkled with mirth. It’s not a big voice, but good projection and clear enunciation ensure that it carried to the back of the auditorium without any sign of force. Baritone Huw Montague Rendall was an appealingly raffish Guglielmo, lyrical and even-toned. Konu Kim did not quite match him for stage presence, but displayed an open, generous tenor with plenty of colour, though a touch more sweetness to the top would be welcome. Ida Falk Winland’s expressive soprano was put to good use as an unusually moving Fiordiligi, the emphasis placed very much on her emotional torment. Julie Boulianne gets more of the fun as a playful Dorabella, her dark silk voice gleaming with enthusiastic mirth, an ideal match to Falk Winland’s more austere, paler timbre. This production’s Don Alfonso is too much of a cipher to put Alessandro Corbelli’s comic gifts to good use and he seemed unusually muted. His performance was elegant, but lacked the usual force that he traditionally brings to his comic roles.

***11