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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91)
Così fan tutte (1790).
Daniela Dessì (soprano) Fiordiligi; Delores Ziegler (mezzo) Dorabella; Alessandro Corbelli (bass) Guglielmo; Jozef Kundlak (tenor) Ferrando; Adelina Scarabelli (soprano) Despina; Claudio Desderi (bass) Don Alfonso
Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala, Milan/Riccardo Muti.
Rec. live at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in 1989.
4:3. Dolby Digital. DDD

Timely (or perhaps unfortunate) that this review appears on the heels of news that Muti has pulled out of his much-anticipated Covent Garden return due to disagreements involved in the transference of production from Milan to London (see ). Here he is very much on home turf in Mozart’s magnificent Così. His orchestra is on form, his singers responsive. Be warned this is not particularly historically-informed Mozart, being more of the old school. Phrasing can be very smooth (almost comforting!), so that some of the edge comes off the surface.

Nevertheless there is much to admire. Staging will ruffle no feathers. Dress is appropriately of the era (the setting is Naples, late 1700s), and Mediterranean blues cast a spell over the daylight. Several times numbers are sung in front of a lowered curtain. The attention is thrown firmly onto the rather misogynistic plot and away from any clever allusions.

The stars of this production are, interestingly, (and in this order) Despina and Don Alfonso. Adelina Scarabelli is a cheeky Despina who in tandem with Claudio Desderi’s experienced Alfonso creates the dynamic for the tests of fidelity. The combination of Despina’s youth and Alfonso’s experience is a powerful one (literally so, probably: Desderi recorded Alfonso for Haitink’s EMI Così). Try Act 1 Scene 3 for examples of this – pure theatre. Disguised as the ‘Doctor’, Despina is a riot. Of course it is traditional to use ‘silly voices’ at this point, but Scarabelli succeeds in raising more than a smile without being over the top about it all. As an example of her excellence as Despina proper, just try the Act 2 aria, ‘Una donna a quindici anni’. We see quite a lot of Muti, not only in the overture, but when severally he is superimposed on stage goings-on. This is (perhaps) effective the first time one sees it, but it palls after a while. Still, he conducts in a flowing, confident style and the overture encapsulates his take on the score – detailed and busy.

Daniela Dessì is a superb Fiordiligi, tackling ‘Come scoglio’ with aplomb, and superb in ‘Per pietà’, where she maintains the linear continuity over rests well. More, she proves on more than one occasion that she can ‘turn’ a phrase in a millisecond Josef Kindlak’s ‘Un aura amoroso’ (Ferrando) is more than acceptable without being overly memorable (and is partially ruined by Muti’s syrupy strings). Alessandro Corbelli’s Guglielmo can be decidedly cheeky. Delores Ziegler is a lovely Dorabella, simply superb in ‘E amore un ladroncello’.

Importantly, though, all voices seem to blend well in ensemble and in exchanges. Not all the acting is of a high order, though. The drawing of swords in the first scene is stagey in the extreme, for example (although at this point Alfonso’s contribution almost makes up for it). Choral work is exemplary throughout.

If only documentation was better. There is a plot synopsis, and libretto is included (but in Italian only). Of course, translations are available on-screen. There is no introductory/accompanying essay, and tracks do not equate to Mozart’s ordering (eg No. 14 in the booklet is No. 17 on the DVD itself).

Amazing that just listening (as opposed to seeing and listening) to Busch’s classic Così on Naxos brings me closer to Mozart than this miracle of modern technology, though.

Colin Clarke


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