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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Così fan tutte (1790)
Margaret Marshall (soprano) Fiordiligi; Ann Murray (mezzo) Dorabella; James Morris (bass) Guglielmo; Francisco Araiza (tenor) Ferrando; Kathleen Battle (soprano) Despina; Sesto Bruscantini (bass) Don Alfonso; Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Riccardo Muti.
rec. live, Kleines Festspielhaus, Salzburg, August, 1983.
4:3. NTSC. LPCM Stereo. Region Code 0.
TDK DVWW-OPCFTSF [two DVDs: 188'00]

In October 2004, I reviewed Muti's 1989 Scala Così (see review). This Salzburg performance is actually the same production, just six years earlier and with different cast and orchestra. The production is the same (Michael Hampe); the TDK, though, is spread over two DVDs and it seems quite easy to find the Scala for half the price of the Salzburg.
Perhaps by 1989 they had realised the opening scene in 1983 was rather crowded on stage - or perhaps it is just that Scala has a bigger stage than the Kleines Festspielhaus - but in Salzburg there is a rather claustrophobic feeling to the opening exchanges. The actual recorded sound seems closer in Salzburg, too. But 1983's secret weapon is, of course, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, on home ground and enjoying every second. Where Scala may have sounded rather heavy, the Viennese merely sound exuberant. Technically, they tear strips off the Italians, too – the strings' many runs are preternaturally together, time after time.
Cast-wise, too, the Salzburg is superior in almost every case. 'Almost' being the important word, for there is one exception. The great prima donna Kathleen Battle cannot hope to equal Adelina Scarabelli's coquetry for Scala. Superstar la Battle may be, she is not really cut out for humour - although her Act 2 aria, instructing the ladies on flirting, is, in fairness, a model of style. Battle really comes a cropper in comparison when Despina appears dressed as the Notary, complete with silly voice. Scarabelli is hilarious - I had to keep playing it again! Battle sort of gets the idea but again, it is not really her thing.
Casting for the four major roles is inspired. Ann Murray has bags of character - her acting is beyond compare - as Dorabella, while the partnership of Francisco Araiza and James Morris works beautifully. Both of these gentlemen I immediately associated with heavier roles – I was present at  Morris' Proms 2000 Wotan – Walküre – reported on by Ryamond Walker (see review). Margaret Marshall and Murray as a pairing is also superb.
If Marshall is perhaps less impressive than the other three main characters as a soloist, her voice fits perfectly with Murray's and both ladies can float a phrase beautifully. Fiordiligi's 'Come scoglio' is, perhaps appropriately, the zenith of her participation. She is much less convincing when she begs forgiveness later in the opera.
Araiza's 'Un aura amorosa' sums up his work as a soloist in his own right - as opposed to part of the Ferrando/Guglielmo coupling) – good, but not more. There is an element of warming up as the production progresses to Araiza which is not there with any of the other principals.
Bruscantini acts Alfonso better than Desderi, it has to be said. Vocally, the awards are fairly equally spread here. Muti conducts many passages beautifully - magical pianissimi for the sea breezes, for example. There is no real choice to be made here. If you want Muti, go for this Muti in Salzburg if you can afford the extra.
Colin Clarke


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