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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Così fan tutte - Dramma giocoso in two acts KV588 (1790)
Fiordiligi - Malin Hartelius (soprano); Dorabella - Marie-Claude Chappuis (mezzo); Despina - Martina Janková (soprano); Ferrando - Martin Mitterrutzner (tenor); Guglielmo - Luca Pisaroni (bass-baritone); Don Alfonso - Gerald Finley (baritone)
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Christoph Eschenbach
Stage Director: Sven-Erik Bechtolf
Sets: Rolf Glittenberg
Costumes: Marianne Glittenberg
TV/Video Director: Tiziano Mancini
rec. live, Salzburg Festival, 2013
Picture Format 16:9.
Region Code: 0
PCM Stereo, DD 5.0. DTS 5.0.
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean
EUROARTS DVD 2072748 [2 DVDs: 200:00]

Both Le Nozze de Figaro in Vienna in 1786 and Don Giovanni two years later, enjoyed success. However, as concerts became less fashionable, and with fewer opportunities of fees from performing, Mozart was reduced to writing begging letters to fellow Freemasons. Matters looked up after the revival of Figaro at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1789 with a commission forthcoming from the Emperor himself for a new opera to be premiered there. Not unexpectedly after the successes of his previous two operas, Mozart again called on Da Ponte for the libretto of the new work, Così fan tutte. It was an original work by Da Ponte and was at first intended for Salieri who did not like it. Mozart’s opera was premiered at the Burgtheater on 26 January 1790. It had only had five performances when all entertainment was curtailed on the death of Emperor Joseph II; it was never heard again in Vienna in Mozart’s lifetime although it was soon given in Prague and several German cities. Così fan tutte has never quite achieved the popularity of the two earlier collaborations between composer and librettist although, since the middle of the twentieth century, it has not lacked for productions. Several video recordings have come to the market.

Despite the work’s increasing popularity, particularly in Salzburg, and widespread recognition as an equal masterpiece alongside the other two Da Ponte operas, it is difficult to bring off. This state of affairs has not been made easier with the emergence, of avant-garde producers and Regietheater productions. In fact any opera-lover who has seen Così fan tutte on stage in the last twenty years will barely recognise this fairly traditional production, costumes and sets. It has become the norm to stage Così in a variety of locations varying from a cruise ship to a seaside pier and even sporting modern haute couture dresses for the ladies often in minimalist sets. However, as with its 1983 predecessor, widely admired for its singing and production (see review) Salzburg has followed tradition with this production. What we get is an opulent set that other venues outside La Scala and New York’s Metropolitan Opera could scarcely afford.

This production had a chequered start with the intended conductor, Welser-Möst, withdrawing from the production, and also the proposed complete cycle of Da Ponte operas, on the basis of inadequate rehearsal time for his orchestra. Christoph Eschenbach replaced him. He takes a generally traditional approach to the music without giving it any significant individuality or insight, idiosyncratic or otherwise. He also opts for a fortepiano continuo and chamber orchestra numbers.

The sets, like the costumes are traditional and in period, the former being a large, opulent conservatory with a proliferation of plants for eavesdroppers to hide behind. It moves outside to give spaciousness to the goings-on of Act Two. These latter were, for the most part traditional although the sisters' drinking seemed excessive and Don Alfonso’s taking the poison that Ferrando had prepared for himself was just silly. Outstanding among the interpretations, vocally and acted, were those of Gerald Finley, in his first attempt at the role, and Luca Pisaroni, as Don Alfonso and Guglielmo respectively. Martina Janková’s acting as Despina was a significant plus if not quite matched by her singing. Martin Mitterrutzner's tone becomes strained and bleached at times (DVD 1. CH.24) whilst neither of the two principal ladies were a patch on the male principals mentioned. Malin Hartelius’ Come scoglio (DVD 1. CH. 20) seemed particularly disappointing. Marie-Claude Chappuis' Dorabella was more striking vocally as was her acting.

Robert J Farr



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