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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Cosi fan Tutte - Dramma giocosa in two acts, libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte (1789)
Fiordiligi (soprano) – Miah Persson; Dorabella (mezzo) – Anke Vondung; Ferrando (tenor) – Topi Lehtipuu; Guglielmo (baritone) – Luca Pisaroni; Despina (soprano) – Ainhoa Garmendia; Don Alfonso (bass-baritone) – Nicolas Riveno
Glyndebourne Chorus
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Ivan Fischer
Directed for the stage by Nicholas Hytner
Directed for TV by Francesca Kemp
rec. Glyndebourne Festival Theatre, 19 May 2006
OPUS ARTE OA0970D [2 DVDs: 210:00]

This award-winning production has just been revived at Glyndebourne with different cast, conductor and orchestra (LPO) so it’s entirely apposite to be reminded on DVD of the team that created it last year. Nicholas Hytner’s admirably unfussy production is as clear-headed, intelligent and probing as one would expect from the director of the National Theatre. Most of his predecessors in that post have scored notable opera hits at Glyndebourne and elsewhere, so he’s following in illustrious footsteps. To say he doesn’t disappoint is an understatement.
I’ve followed his career on and off since he put himself on the map with a series of stunning productions at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in the early 1980s, and though some of the youthful daring has gone, it’s still clearly the work of the same mind. Hytner actually concedes that some may find his more mature approach ‘almost shockingly traditional’ but I, for one, am perfectly happy with that. I certainly do not miss the sort of misguided ‘concept’ that marred, for instance, the Barenboim/ Dorrie Cosi from Berlin a while back (see review). It did have some good things in it, but a mixture of slack conducting and fussy staging undermined the generally good casting, whereas here at Glyndebourne everything gels in perfect harmony.
Hytner opts for a period feel, complete with sumptuous outfits, swords and hairdos, but Vicky Mortimer’s set is admirably simple and clutter-free, with a few well placed items and a louvered, sliding back panel suggesting various locations perfectly yet not detracting from the action. One of Hytner’s hallmarks is expertly choreographed scene changes, where the actors themselves, helped by the odd servant/ maid, effortlessly move us from one scene to the next, usually tailored exactly to the music, like a well-oiled machine but fresh and vital. It’s a joy to behold, simple yet supremely effective. Add to that beautifully subtle lighting and this is a visual treat.
Things are also helped immeasurably by having a cast who look absolutely right. The two couples are not too young to be inexperienced but look great together and have a real chemistry that is funny, moving and sexy. I last came across Mia Persson as Sophie in Robert Carsen’s thought-provoking Rosenkavalier from Zurich a while back and was impressed with her acting and vocal abilities. Her Fiordiligi is even better, a natural vulnerability underlying any coquettishness. She and the equally-impressive Dora Vondung (Dorabella) work beautifully together, convincing as sisters (giggling, whispering etc) but touching and believable, as well as being in excellent voice, the light mezzo of Vondung complementing the clear, radiant soprano of Persson. They do waste comic potential either, particularly in the fake wooing scenes.
The men are all excellent, in good voice and relishing these superbly drawn roles. I’m glad Hytner didn’t overdo the disguises for the central pair, which here amount to no more than a flamboyant costume, longer hair and the all-important Albanian moustaches, of which much is made. They look handsome and clearly enjoy themselves, with deft comic timing where needed but all the main arias and ensembles beautifully sung, though purists should note that Ferrando’s ‘Ah lo veggio’ is, for some unaccountable reason, omitted. Nicolas Rivenq’s Don Alfonso is almost more avuncular than Machiavellian, an impression helped by his warm, rounded baritone delivery.
Ainhoa Garmendia’s Despina is also a delight, truly sung and never descending into caricature, whilst obviously enjoying her show-stealing scenes disguised as the doctor and notary.
Another highlight of this set is the playing of the OAE under Fischer, who maintains brisk but never breathless tempos, always alive to the needs of the singers. Wind solos are gorgeous and the whole band is captured in excellent sound which overcomes the slightly dry acoustic.
I’ve often moaned about lack of extras on DVD releases, so it’s always a pleasure to praise Opus Arte, who here give us valuable interviews with cast, director and conductor, as well as production photo gallery and illustrated synopsis. Coupled with superb picture and sound quality, this is as good as it gets for the DVD library, so if you’re in the market for stimulating theatre that will survive trends and fads, this has to be on your shortlist.
Tony Haywood



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