London Opera Players Cosi fan Tutte Artrix Centre, Bromsgrove
In its brand-new Artrix Centre, Bromsgrove at last has a performing venue its thriving arts community has long deserved, and it was entirely fitting that the opening event of the town's 45th festival should be the first major presentation staged there.
First to greet the visitor is the immense free car park (lighting could be better, though), and then a welcoming, bustling foyer.
The 301-seater auditorium itself, three tiers surrounding the raked stalls, has comfortable seating with ample leg-room, and is finished with plenty of slatted wood, providing a sparkling, immediate acoustic. There is also what looks to be a decent flying-tower. Plaudits all round to the designers, and to those who conceived and achieved the project.
No string quartet or piano recital for this important evening, but nothing less than a full-scale opera with its attendant orchestra (admittedly a miniature one), accommodated in a tidy little pit.
Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte with its tiny cast and dispensable chorus is an ideal vehicle for touring companies, and perhaps it runs the risk of being done to death.
But this production by the London Opera Players has the sense to make a virtue out of economic necessity, a pleasingly lightweight approach to its otherwise disturbing fianc>e-swapping content matched by a witty and elegant simplicity of staging.
John Ramster's production summons teasing tensions and misunderstandings building up to the opera's cruel climax, and the excellent singers played up to the scenario with verve and adroit body-language complementing their undoubted vocal potential.
Musical direction under Robyn Sevastos, her beat frequently airy, could have been more positive, but the end result was convincing and served what remains a repellent opera well.