Promises so much, and delivers in every aspect- a superb Cosi!
It's hard to say which is my favourite Mozart opera as it alternates a lot, but what's for certain is that Cosi Fan Tutte, the most psychologically complex of his operas, has always been in my top 4. Mainly because the comedy is so witty and infectious and the music is some of the most beautiful Mozart ever wrote, Soave Sia Il Vento a contender for my favourite piece of his in that respect. It's also difficult to say which production of Cosi is my favourite, so far I have loved them all with my least favourite(1990 Peter Sellars) still being quite good. And this production is another one I love.
The production in the first place offered so much. Riccardo Muti has always been a great conductor, with almost all his readings ranging from rock-solid to outstanding. Ann Murray, Kathleen Battle, Francisco Araiza, James Morris and Sesto Bruscantini have all given performances I have liked very much as well. And it continues to deliver on its promises. The costumes and sets look very elegant and are the most subtly used I have seen for any production for Cosi Fan Tutte. I love how the costumes mirror the various pairs in the opera, it helps add to the comedy and for a newcomer to the opera it helps also I think to know who everybody is and how they are related and such.
They are helped by the unobtrusive video directing, which flatters the singers and doesn't do close-ups of people sweating or showing their tonsils or nostrils, which I have been annoyed by in the past. The sound quality is very good, though one may wish for more options. Musically, the production is faultless. The orchestra play stylishly and beautifully. If I was allowed to single anybody out it would be the horn in the rondo for Per Pietà, Ben Mio, Perdona, what a sterling bit of playing. Riccardo Muti's conducting is outstanding, brisk and very exciting, while showing his usual attention to musicality and phrasing, ideal for the recitatives, Soave Sia Il Vento and Il Core Vi Dono.
Margaret Marshall is excellent as Fiordiligi. Her vibrato is a little loose at times, but because she is so flexible also in Come Scoglio I wasn't bothered all that much. She makes for a charming and elegant presence, which is ideal. Ann Murray is every bit as impressive, Dorabella is more of a minx than usual but this approach did work very well I felt. Vocally she is excellent, with a gorgeous rendition of Smanie Implacabili, and she blends so well with Marshall. Of the ladies, my personal favourite was the Despina of Kathleen Battle. Battle is perfect in the role of the scheming maid. Her voice is of silvery clarity that is used with great agility and a spot-on trill, and she has a real gift for comedy especially in her Il Dottore guise and in In Uomine, In Soldati.
Francisco Araiza gives one of my favourite performances of his, my favourite being his Ramiro in the Ponnelle film La Cenerentola. I may be going on a limb when I say that I think Ferrando is his best Mozartian role, here are nuances that were not quite there as Tamino and Ottavio (Tamino especially was sung as if in Donizetti mode) and the signs of a convincing actor. In all fairness Tamino and Ottavio don't require you to do as much in comparison, so Araiza was in his element being naturally dashing and witty. And vocally especially in Un Aura Amarosa I have no complaints at all. Guglielmo saw James Morris in rich, velvety voice rather than the rather throaty vocal production he has now, as well as the ability to be sympathetic(Il Core Vi Dono, exquisite here) and gloating(Donna Meie, which brims with energy). Sesto Bruscantini is not at his very best, but still makes for a great Don Alfonso at 63, playing the world-weary and cynical aspects of Alfonso's character with sly humour without overdoing it.
All in all, a really superb Cosi Fan Tutte. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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