Britain’s favourite soprano, Lesley Garrett, headed a world-class team at Garsington Opera at Wormsley, as she sang the part of Despina in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.
Garrett shone in director John Fulljames’ glittering production of love, sex, deceit and more sex as she played a controlling and manipulative servant who is undone as she influences two sisters to cheat on their soldier boyfriends.
Undone is a polite way to describe what happened to our national treasure in a bawdy celebration of physical love. Garrett and the rest of the cast kept their clothes on, but there were frequent suggestive visual jokes along the way.
Some of the less controversial production highlights included driving a classic car onto the stage, and mixing modern costumes with 18th century hairstyles.
Despina allowed Garrett to use the full range of her still incredible vocal range – and, also, her acting abilities, which were most obvious not when she was singing, but performing as a visual foil to another character.
And it is dramatic aptitude that gives a vital, extra lift to an opera singer’s performance. Hence, Kathryn Rudge’s Dorabella won the laurels as the most impressive artist on the night.
Her mezzo-soprano voice was not as mellifluous as soprano Andreea Soare’s Fiordiligi. But Rudge is, apparently effortlessly, able to convey an impressive range of emotions through facial expressions and body language. She deserves future stardom.
Baritone Ashley Riches and tenor Robin Tritschler as the soldiers Guglielmo and Ferrando respectively rose to the challenge of singing in a world famous opera, but could not match bass baritone Neal Davies’ hypnotic, luxurious voice as Despina’s foil, Don Alfonso.
The capacity audience lapped up the quality performances, giving justifiably enthusiastic applause to conductor Douglas Boyd and his musicians, who never dropped a note.
The emotion continued when the audience headed off for a romantic lakeside picnic half-way through the evening, as warm breezes swept in across the Chiltern Hills.