Apart from the ending, this Salzburg production is a sheer delight
To me 'Cosi Fan Tutte' is not just among Mozart's best operas along with 'Le Nozze Di Figaro' and 'Don Giovanni' but also one of opera's masterpieces. It contains some of Mozart's most sublime music(i.e. "Soave Sia Il Vento") and a deft balance of comedy and drama. It has a very strong DVD competition of which the weakest, the Netherlands production, still has a lot of interesting things.
And this Salzburg production is a sheer delight in almost every way. The only thing that didn't work personally was the really pointless and out of kilter(having something so pretty dark and violent in a production with Opera Buffa comedy and poignant Drama Giocoso elements) twist at the end (like in the otherwise equally delightful 2009 Zurich production), this time with Alfonso rather than Fiordiligi. The ending is dramatic with a little gloom but also a sense of happiness, but did it really need to be so dark.
That touch aside, this 'Cosi Fan Tutte' does contain some of the best directing Sven-Eric Bechtolf has ever done, instead of adding gratuitous touches that cheapen and trivialise the drama and make no sense within the story the production really does a fine job in developing the characters and bringing conviction to the relationships in the opera. This is done in a way that is more than recognisable- no distorted personalities- but also in a fresh way. Particularly loved what was done with Despina, with adeptly handled physical comedy and the bathing scene is beautifully done, evocative and not distasteful at all. The comedy elements are hilarious and the dramatic ones poignant, in a genuine way for both.
Visually, the production is really pleasing. It's traditional but also stylised in a stylish way and not a cheap one. The sets show a huge amount of detail and the colours are positively eye-catching. A lot of thought went into the 18th century costuming and it really shows, they're beautifully designed and are simple but elegant in colour. The lighting is expressive and the production is very well shot (have seen some awful video directing before from this video director so this was a pleasant surprise), the video directing is unobtrusive, always involving and allows the audience to really engage with what's going on on stage, the best parts giving the sense that you're there in person.
Musically, it's pretty much faultless. The orchestral playing is neat, characterful, vibrant and light in texture, as well as rhythmically precise (important in Mozart). Christoph Eschenbach keeps things moving alertly and with boundless energy, while giving a sympathetic touch to the more intimate moments. The sound quality is resonant and booming, the orchestra and singers always sounding well-balanced together, let down ever so slightly by some reticence, making things not as clear as everywhere else on stage, when the singers are projecting from the back of the stage.
With the six principals, not a bad word to say about them either. Particularly outstanding is Martina Janckova as Despina. She sings with fullness and flexibility in "In Umini Soldati" and "Una Donna Ai Quindici Anni", and it is a joy of a characterisation, spiteful, playful, earthy, sometimes demonic and often hilarious. Malin Hartelius sings with a fresh fragrance, creamy expressiveness and aching vulnerability, and her Fiordiligi effectively charms and affects, her "Come Scoglio" has a furious passion and her "Per Pieta" has much pathos. She blends beautifully with the slightly warmer and fuller-toned Dorabella of Marie-Claude Chappuis, who matches her dramatically in fun and charm.
As for the men, they are every bit as good. Martin Mitterrutzner is instantly appealing and brings a vocal sweetness and heart-melting stage presence to "Un Aura Amorosa" and a viciousness to "Tradito, Schernito". Luca Pisaroni as Guglielmo is very funny and sings very characterfully, though with an aggression that certainly doesn't seem out of place. Gerald Finley's Alfonso is earnest and good-humoured, though not losing sight of the basic concept of the character, a puppeteer of the action somewhat and a scheming one. Finley succeeds in not making him too jovial, too buffoonish, too wicked or too sinister, and sings vigorously and richly.
Overall, delightful in almost every way with only the ending misfiring. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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