Notes and Editorial Reviews
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
COSÌ FAN TUTTE
Fiordiligi – Malin Hartelius
Dorabella – Anna Bonitatibus
Despina – Martina Janková
Ferrando – Javier Camarena
Guglielmo – Ruben Drole
Don Alfonso – Oliver Widmer
Zurich Opera House Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Ernst Raffelsberger)
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Sven-Eric Bechtolf, stage director
Rolf Glittenberg, set designer
Marianne Glittenberg, costume designer
Jürgen Hoffmann, lighting designer
Recorded live from the Opernhaus Zürich, 2009.
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital
5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, Italian, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 200 mins
No. of DVDs: 2 (DVD 9)
This new (summer of 2009) Cosi from the Zurich Opera house has a great deal of charm, it looks and sounds good, and it pulls very few senseless directorial punches, save for one at the end, which is stunningly weird.
The physical production, by Rolf Glittenberg, takes a clean, bright, minimalist approach. After an opening scene for the three men in front of glass shelving with books, a globe, metronome, mounted butterflies, a male and female torso, and other Enlightenment-implying tchochkes, we move to what seems like a Palladian villa (despite the fact that the opera presumably takes place near Naples). White semi-circular walls with columns (good for hiding behind) surround a tall, thin, lush green cedar tree; the background is the brilliant blue of a clear day. Chairs and a table are moved about for scene changes and props.
Marianne Glittenberg has costumed Ferrando and Guglielmo exactly alike: as themselves they are all in white, including periwigs (and they both have mustaches); as the Albanians, they have long, messy hair and colorful silken long coats. Fiordiligi is in white, Dorabella in off-white; the difference in the women is minimal until Act 2, when Fiordiligi wears blue. Alfonso is dapper and removed and Despina is nicely untidy. The dress is clearly meant to be of Mozart's time.
In director Sven-Eric Bechtolf's vision, the first act is all play--Dorabella takes a noose and stands on a chair before realizing that she has nowhere to hang it from, and Fiordiligi sings "Come scoglio" while Dorabella holds up cue cards with the text. They seem to be playing at opera seria. With the encouragement of Despina, both of them drink plenty of wine. The guys dance to the rhythms of "Bella vita militar". By Act 2, when the real trouble begins, so do the real emotions. Ferrando becomes angrier and angrier (delivering a vicious "Tradito, schernito") while Guglielmo, after a macho first act and prideful seduction of Dorabella, appears to fall apart completely: he's not only angry, he seems not to know whether he's coming or going.
Despina is introduced in a rage; yes, she enters complaining, but this woman looks ready to kill and her cynicism never flags. She even semi-seduces Alfonso before turning her charm off. Alfonso gives off a real chill and is more enigmatic than usual; he doesn't want anyone to see him clearly and so he wears tinted spectacles.
The singing is uniformly excellent. Malin Hartelius is a terrific Fiordiligi, her vibrato prominent but never bothersome, her inflections ideal, her sense of silliness sublime. You get the feeling at times that she's throwing vocal caution to the wind, but it's never less than exciting and musical. And she looks great. The same goes for the warm-voiced Anna Bonitatibus as Dorabella, often drunker than her sister and over-dramatizing wonderfully.
As Ferrando, Javier Camarena offers a truly Mediterranean sound (he's Mexican, but you know what I mean), dispatching "Un aura amorosa" with bel canto ease and, as mentioned above, "Tradito, schernito" with clenched teeth and big though lyrical sound. Guglielmo is played as a peacock by baritone Ruben Drole, very pleased with himself all the way through his seduction of Dorabella, and he should be: he is charismatic, his voice is lush, his timing impeccable.
Oliver Widmer's Don Alfonso, as mentioned, is mysterious; indeed, we often find him singing at a whisper. He's not quite evil, but he's smarter than anyone else and laughs at the trouble around him. You would not want to mess with Martina Jankova, whose Despina is controlling and furious--so young, so bitter--and in fact, so funny. Oh yes--I referred to a "weird" directorial punch in my first paragraph: In the closing moments of the opera, Fiordiligi drinks poison and drops dead. Maybe I shouldn't have told you.
Franz Welser-Möst leads a charming, detail-filled account of the score, with very few eccentricities. One is a very, very slow farewell quintet in Act 1, but perhaps that is so that Alfonso's laughter can seem more sinister than usual. Otherwise his sensibly quick reading has elegance and class; the winds are always audible and there's an aura of chamber music throughout. His singers embellish vocal lines tastefully, moderately, and not always when and where you'd expect; the continuo has a life of its own (though not as much as with René Jacobs). It's a very animated performance.
This Cosi has a great deal of competition on video--there are at least a half dozen worth seeing (and 70 on CD!)--from Peter Sellars' wacky-but-fascinating version placed in a diner, to a superbly-led, very chilly, period-instrument set from Sweden's jewel-like Drottningholm Court Theater (and a more conventional period set from Glyndebourne), to a traditional, handsome Muti-led reading from Vienna. But this one is up there with those--a marvelous, clever, musically superb performance.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Così fan tutte, K 588 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Malin Hartelius (Soprano),
Javier Camarena (Voice),
Anna Bonitatibus (Mezzo Soprano),
Martina Jankova (Soprano),
Ruben Drole (Voice),
Oliver Widmer (Baritone)
Zurich Opera House Orchestra,
Zurich Opera House Chorus
Written: 1790; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 2009
Venue: Opernhaus Zürich
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