Henry Neill and Anthony Gregory are singing the roles of Guglielmo and Ferrando. They are the lads who, having accepted a bet from the more worldly-wise Don Alfonso, decide to test their fiancées’ fidelity by trying to seduce them while in disguise.
Tell us about yourself. Have you worked with Opera North before?
Henry: “I grew up in Gloucestershire but now live in Austria. I first appeared with Opera North as Schaunard in their 2019 revival of La bohème – our cast got on so well with each other that we still keep in touch! It’s wonderful to be back here and to be working with so many of the same people as last time.”
Anthony: “I’m originally from Herefordshire and was a chorister at Hereford Cathedral from the age of 7, so classical music has been and continues to be a hugely important part of my life. I was lucky enough to sing here previously during a National Opera Studio residency in 2012 and have fond memories of performing some fully-staged opera scenes in the Howard Assembly Room.”
When did you first come across Così fan tutte and what did you think?
Anthony: “I first performed the role of Ferrando in my final year at the Royal College of Music. It was an especially memorable time as I was fortunate enough to meet and work opposite my wife (who’s also an opera singer!) Not only are there numerous sublime musical moments in the opera, the characters – especially the boys – are incredibly fun to perform. We spend a lot of the show in disguise playing various tricks and games on the girls! For someone who’s constantly behaving like a big kid, it’s a role that really suits me …”
Henry: “I saw a student production when I was at university. I thought the music was incredible, but the story was a bit far fetched!”
Henry Neill as Guglielmo, Quirijn de Lang as Don Alfonso and Anthony Gregory as Ferrando © James Glossop
What’s your favourite part of the opera?
Henry: “The duet between Guglielmo and Dorabella in Act 2. After all the chaos and confusion of the first act, this is the first time that these characters are alone in a room together. Although Guglielmo is pretending to be someone else, there’s an undeniable attraction between the two and so they simply let their emotions take over. It’s a wonderful moment of honesty which is reflected perfectly in the music.”
Anthony: “Probably the two ensembles in the Act 1 just before the boys ‘go off to war’. The Quintet (‘Please write me letters’) followed by the Trio (‘May breezes blow lightly’) with the two girls and Don Alfonso are absolutely ravishing. The ensembles are also lots of fun!”
Alexandra Lowe as Fiordiligi, Henry Neill as Guglielmo, Anthony Gregory as Ferrando and Heather Lowe as Dorabella © James Glossop
What do you particularly like about this production?
Anthony: “I love the fact that Tim Albery, our brilliant director, has really encouraged us to find the realism in our emotional journey and how we relate to the two girls during the course of the opera. There’s no ‘playing for laughs’ as is quite often the convention and this has certainly made me think about the characters in a different way. There’s more gravitas and poignancy in each decision the boys take to manipulate and test the girls. I’ve really enjoyed exploring my role in this way.”
Henry: “I also like the way that Tim lets the story speak for itself. Having been in, and seen, other productions, there can be a tendency to overplay the comedy which makes the story feel a bit slapstick and silly. By avoiding that, we stay much more invested in the characters and story and, ultimately, it’s a lot funnier that way!”
How’s it going in the rehearsal room?
Henry: “It’s intense with a lot of detailed work, but luckily we have a first class team, all of whom are really motivated to put on a great show. The atmosphere is really good and there is, of course, the occasional opportunity for a bit of mischief!”
Anthony: “It’s been a huge amount of fun. As you can imagine it’s a massive undertaking staging Così with its numerous ensemble numbers but it’s been a joy from day one. Lots of laughter. Everyone in the cast is wonderful and it’s a pleasure being on stage with them!”
Why should people make Così their must-see for 2024?
Henry: “Così is a show that has a bit of something for everyone, from opera buff to complete novice. It is a great story which is well told in this production, with some amazing musicians as well.”
Anthony: “The music is ravishing – Mozart at his absolute peak – and the production is fun, clever and beautiful to look at. It’s sure to be a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Do come and see us!”
Cosi fan tutte opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Friday 2 February 2024. Following its run in Leeds, it tours to Nottingham, Newcastle, Salford and Hull.