The Summer of Love: Pasadena Opera brings ‘Cosi’ to A Noise Within
by Monika Beal, Lister reviewer, Singerpreneur
No longer the new kids on the block, Pasadena Opera has successfully established itself as a leader in producing quality theatrical work. Their unique spin on Mozart’s classic sitcom Cosi fan tutte was helmed by director Jonathan Lynn, bringing a long career in film to the stage. His fresh look at the operatic classic delighted the audience on Friday’s opening night performance. The dynamic range of characters and alter egos portrayed by each of the main players took the audience right out of a theater with beautifully simple projections of 1967 San Francisco. The satisfying production transports the text to the height of the Vietnam war, giving Mozart’s classic a free-love spirit, but with a psychedelic glow.
Baritone Gregorio Gonzalez provided a charismatic and vocally commanding Don Alfonso, genuinely enjoying the advantage of his superior military rank by ensnaring his two officers, sung by baritone Jonathan Beyer (Guglielmo) and tenor Jonathan Smucker (Ferrando), into a bet about their fiancées’ fidelity. The flower-people chorus, and the girls’ feisty maid Despina (sung by Karin Mushegain) scheme with Don Alfonso to win his bet. Julia Heron Metzler (Fiordiligi) and Michelle Rice (Dorabella) aptly play the initially steadfast sweethearts who, with the right prodding, slowly meander into drug-induced escapades with their incognito, duplicitous darlings.
Costume designer Jacqueline Saint Anne, who also hails from the film industry, curated a winsome, eclectic palette for the entire cast, featuring roller skates, embroidered bell-bottoms, and a Lady Gaga-esque notary disguise. The chorus’ background work in the “shrooms” scene, in particular, had us in stitches (the actors elevated stoned shrooming to appropriate high camp – pun intended) while the main players got lost in their chaotic love quadrangle. Guglielmo (Beyer) seized the moment with his aria, “Donne mie, le fate a tanti”, by traipsing through the aisles, using the audiences as props to hilariously explore his angst about the fairer sex.
The production took notable liberties with the text, loosely translating the original Da Ponte libretto to include topical concerns and pop culture icons of the day. Pasadena Opera seized the zeitgeist of the present, as well, recapturing the anti-war pleas and gender mores of its imposed era and showing their relevance today. As a result, the sexual politics of Cosi fan tutte felt more timely than ever: although women are accused of being the source of flighty, fickle love, the final assertion of “so do all lovers” made for a fitting and satisfying end.
My play The Patriotic Traitor played at the Park theatre in London from February 17th to March 19th, 2016. Every performance was sold out, including two extra performances that were scheduled and sold out within 20 minutes of being advertised on line. It is expected to open in the West End next year.
'A cracking bit of writing from Jonathan Lynn.' Andrew Marr, The Andrew Marr Show
'Scintillatingly topical, beautifully written and magnificently acted.' Daily Mail
'A gripping encounter between Petain and de Gaulle.' Daily Telegraph
'Challenges us to think about the sliding doors of history, about what makes a nation, a leader, or indeed, a traitor. There are laughs, yes, but it is mostly via the characters, both megalomaniacs...a serious, and seriously good, endeavour.' The Times
'I can't recommend it strongly enough.' Libby Purves, Theatre Cat.
Other Recent Theatre
Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay reunited for a 30th Anniversary theatre production with a new Yes Prime Minister play. After an initial 16 week sell-out season at the Gielgud Theatre and a hugely successful tour of the UK, it returned to London's West End where it played at the Apollo Theatre. After it completed a six month return visit to the West End, this time at the Trafalgar Studios in Whitehall, it did a third UK tour, and simultaneously had an American premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. The play has been sold to Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Malta, Spain, Israel, Croatia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
Spin, BlackBerrys, sexed-up dossiers, sleaze, global warming and Europe on the brink of a financial meltdown form the background to mayhem at Chequers as the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan makes a seriously compromising offer of salvation. Prime Minister Jim Hacker, narrowly re-elected, remains in power with his coterie of close advisors including cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby and Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley.. but for how long? They govern a whole new world.
The cast was Henry Goodman as Sir Humphrey Appleby, David Haig as Prime Minister Jim Hacker, Jonathan Slinger as Bernard Woolley, Emily Joyce as Claire Sutton, Head of the Policy Unit at Number 10, Sam Dastor as the Ambassador from Kumranistan, William Chubb as the Director-General of the BBC and Tim Wallers as BBC interviewer Simon Chester.
The play was first published by Faber and Faber ( www.faber.co.uk ) and a later, revised version has been published by Samuel French.
'Jonathan Lynn's return to the West End is something to cheer about. Lynn, who directed the best production of Joe Orton's Loot that I've ever seen, is a dab hand at Orton's game of drawing pure water from poisoned wells.'
John Lahr, The New Yorker
The first West End production of Yes, Prime Minister at the Gielgud Theatre recouped the entire cost of its run less than five weeks after its first performance and won the WHATS ON STAGE/THEATRE GOERS CHOICE AWARD for BEST NEW COMEDY.
Some Past Theatre Highlights (As Director)
The Glass Menagerie
Interview with Tennessee Williams in the London Evening News about Jonathan Lynn's
production, July 6 1977:
'Mr Williams thought the new production was perfect. "For the first time it seemed like
the play I'd written." '
A Little Hotel On The Side (1984)
"This is John Mortimer's third Feydeau adaptation for the National Theatre, and the
greatest occasion on our farcical stage since he and Jacques Charon set the ball rolling with A Flea In Her Ear in 1966. Thank heaven somebody offered Jonathan Lynn the open space of the Olivier and at last gave Feydeau the chance to expand to his true epic scale. With all respect to Noises Off I cannot remember an evening of such delirious laughter."
Irving Wardle, The Times
'Jonathan Lynn has directed with such inexhaustible inventiveness, demonic brio and
choreographic imagination off which a Twyla Tharp could live three years."
John Simon, New York
"Jonathan Lynn's expert revival…I feel suitably unhampered in pronouncing Leonard
Rossiter's version definitive…I do not mind admitting to you that I laughed until the tears ran down my face.
Michael Coveney, Financial Times
"Joe Orton's Loot is a hard play to get right. It requires gravity, realism and a very
precise balance between verbal style and visual mayhem. But Jonathan Lynn's
production at the Ambassadors (the fourth to hit London since the play's 1966 debut) is much the best I have seen in that the absurdity seems to grow naturally out of a perfectly realized world of suburban crepe-de-chine kitsch."
Michael Billington, The Guardian
Three Men On A Horse (1987)
"Brilliantly directed by Jonathan Lynn at the Cottesloe Theatre [NT]. Jonathan Lynn is
one of England's finest farce directors.
John Lahr, Vogue
'Magical mixture from America…A great night out.'
Irving Wardle, The Times
'Jonathan Lynn's production obeys the first law of farce, often preached but rarely
practiced: its characters take themselves very seriously…By the end the Runyon-esque proceedings are handing out very big laughs indeed.'
Robert Cushman, International Herald Tribune