Some years ago, Tim Albery produced a radically abstract version of Così Fan Tutte for Opera North featuring crazy couture costumes and a slick robotic set. It got panned. He revised it as a social experiment set in the age of Enlightenment, which was praised to the skies. It's strange what a few powdered wigs can do, because it's basically the same production in more conventional outfits.
Tobias Hoheisel's design is a giant camera obscura inside which Geoffrey Dolton's grave Don Alfonso, now looking like a tormented philosopher from a Joseph Wright of Derby painting, propounds his theorem about the inconstancy of women. It's a fine conceit, given that the principal effect of a pinhole camera is to turn everything upside down – though this is one of the most objectively neutral readings of Così you will see. Under Albery's scrutiny, the behaviour of the characters is no more open to interpretation than the movement of electrons beneath a microscope.
Now with Andrew Parrott in the pit, the production has never been in better shape musically. One expects period-influenced conductors to be on the brisk side, but Parrott's reading is surprisingly expansive. Elizabeth Atherton's Fiordiligi lingers over one of the longest Per Pietàs on record, though I still didn't want it to end. Victoria Simmonds's Dorabella and Amy Freston's Despina are in league with fine feisty performances, and Quirijn de Lang's Guglielmo is a dark-toned delight.
But the highlight is the supple, limpid Ferrando of Allan Clayton, who is developing into one of the most mellifluous Mozartian tenors around.