The topiary on stage is seen against a backdrop of a white mansion inscribed with masonic signs.
A man undergoing electro-convulsive water therapy in a bath tub gets entangled by writhing hosepipes when the machine goes into overdrive – a variation on Mozart’s opening scene where the hero Tamino is pursued by a serpent.
Netia Jones’s imaginative re-think on Mozart’s Enlightenment fairytale has Jonathan McGovern’s Papageno, bird-catcher to the Queen of the Night, as an unlovable vagrant, as he skins a rabbit he has shot and wrings the neck of a bird.
Chinese soprano Sen Guo hits the fiery coloratura of the Queen of the Night spot on, but is curiously subservient to a sinister red-clad priest who drags her around.
The Queen’s Three Ladies and the Three Boys glide as if on wheels (the boys from the Trinity Boys’ Choir are on roller-skates).
Traces of Alice Through the Looking Glass in the chess board set of the second half mingle with hints of The Handmaid’s Tale when the masonic leader Sarastro (James Creswell) abducts the Queen of the Night’s daughter Pamina to the brotherhood’s Temple of Enlightenment.
Louise Alder’s Pamina is visibly repelled by Sarastro’s proprietary hands clasping her waist and she rebels against joining the Temple’s poke-bonneted maids.
Jones’s ambiguous staging leaves unanswered questions, but there is excellent work by the cast, especially Louise Alder’s radiant Pamina, Benjamin Hulett’s lyrical Tamino and bass James Creswell’s magisterial Sarastro.
Baroque specialist Christian Curnyn conducts.
Richard Strauss’s light-hearted Capriccio was written in 1942 against the tragic background of the Second World War.
Strauss and his librettist Clemens Krauss composed the work as affirmation of the enduring power of art.
Tim Albery updates the opera to the 1950s, in Tobias Hoheisel’s exquisite set of the country house of Countess Madeleine and her brother, the Count.
Madeleine invites a group of artists for the weekend, that sparks off a debate about the importance of words versus music in art.
Composer Flamand and poet Olivier compete to win Madeleine’s heart.
The Count (William Dazeley) has an on-off affair with actress Clairon (Hanna Hipp) while theatre director La Roche (Andrew Shore) comments acerbically from the chaise longue.
Swedish soprano Miah Persson is a peerless Countess.
The final aria where she reflects on which of her two suitors she prefers, “words or music”, is one of Strauss’s loveliest, immaculately sung.
Tenor Sam Furness’s Flamand and baritone Gavan Ring’s Olivier combine forces handsomely and Andrew Shore’s ebullient La Roche is a delight.
Artistic director Douglas Boyd conducts Garsington Opera Orchestra in an evening that is close to perfection.
Oliver Platt’s staging of Cosi Fan Tutte for Opera Holland Park gets off to a confusing start, but thereafter steadily improves. We have a well-matched pair of sisters in Eleanor Dennis’s graceful Fiordiligi and Kitty Whately’s flirtatious Dorabella.
Their two fiancés, tenor Nick Pritchard as Ferrando and baritone Nicholas Lester as Guglielmo, also fit their respective roles. Singing is of a high standard and Dennis and Pritchard are superb in their key arias.
Sarah Tynan as perky maid Despina unwittingly falls in with Peter Coleman-Wright’s Machiavellian Don Alfonso to test the girls’ constancy when the men return from “war” in heavy disguise as exotic Albanians and lay siege to their fiancées.
The ending is always problematical as to who ends up with whom when the nasty trick is exposed, but Platt devises a salutary twist.