As always when Sir
Charles Mackerras is in charge of a Mozart recording great care
is taken to get as authentic a performance as possible. True,
the excellent SCO play on modern instruments but tempos are
fastish in accordance with late eighteenth century practice
and some of the arias are discreetly embellished. They even
use the original spelling of Guilelmo, which Da Ponte always
wrote - and Mozart nearly always - according to a footnote in
Sir Charles sets
the seal on the performance with a sparkling overture where
the cheeky woodwind solos are well in focus. On a well-filled
disc like this it is possible to include most of the favourite
numbers and not only the arias. Così fan tutte is, more
than any other Mozart opera, an ensemble opera and space has
also been found for several concerted numbers. As always with
Telarc the sound is excellent, full but not over-blown and an
ideal balance between pit and stage. There are some splendid
contributions from the Arthur Oldham-trained Edinburgh Festival
Chorus, notably a vivid and alert Bella vita militar!
and as on the companion Don Giovanni disc (see review)
the conducting is faultless, Sir Charles being second to none
as a Mozartean.
The singing is also
first class, as it should be considering the roll-call. I think,
though, that casting Dorabella as a soprano reduces the contrasts
between the two sisters. Marie McLaughlin is a mite darker in
timbre than Felicity Lott and they blend well when singing together,
as can be heard in the duet Ah, guarda, sorella. However
a true mezzo-soprano would have been preferable. This said,
I have only praise for Marie McLaughlin’s singing, with perfect
rounded tone and positively radiating charm. The second act
aria È amore un ladroncello is especially memorable,
as is the duet with Guilelmo, Il core vi dono,
where both singers alluringly caress their melodic lines. Felicity
Lott has a tough task to negotiate the wide range of her two
arias but she does it admirably. She is a little fluttery in
Come scoglio perhaps, but her singing takes on a grandiose
quality in the long Per piea, ben mio, perdona. One has
to admire Mozart’s inventive instrumentation: in this aria it’s
the horns that provide the dark colours. The duet Fra gli
amplessi, just before the end of the opera also shows her
at her best. She hasn’t the creamy tones of Lisa Della Casa
- whose Decca recording with Karl Böhm from the mid-1950s has
long been a personal favourite - but she is so sensitive. Here
she and Jerry Hadley obviously spur each other to grandeur.
Hadley, who earlier in the opera has been uncharacteristically
strained, here sings with a hushed intensity to challenge even
Nicolai Gedda. Hadley sings his arias with his accustomed sensitivity
and in Tradito, schernito with great power not always
found in a Mozart tenor, but he has to work hard. A pleasant
surprise is Alessandro Corbelli who on the companion Don
Giovanni disc was a stylish but slightly anonymous Leporello.
Here he is a real charmer, evoking memories of Erich Kunz on
the Böhm recording. He even communicates much of Kunz’s timbre.
The aria Donne mie. la fate a tanti is more hard-driven,
more boisterous than Kunz but still charming. The two wire-pullers,
Despina and Don Alfonso, have less to sing but Nuccia Focile
is bright and glittering in her two arias. The superb actor
Gilles Cachemaille demonstrates his capacity in the short concluding
aria, where the final words are, of course, Così fan tutte.
With a good essay
on the opera and an extensive synopsis plus Charles Mackerras’s
“Notes on the Musical Interpretation” the documentation is more
than one has the right to hope for, especially with a mid-price
issue. Anyone wanting a stylish disc of Cosí highlights?
Here it is!