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Mozart: Cosi Fan Tutte / Muti, Battle, Marshall, Murray, Araiza, Morris

Mozart / Marshall / Murray / Vpo / Muti / Hampe
Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 107219  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  James MorrisAnn MurrayKathleen BattleMargaret Marshall,   ... 
Conductor:  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Così fan tutte Riccardo Muti, cond; Margaret Marshall ( Fiordiligi ); Ann Murray ( Dorabella ); James Morris ( Guglielmo ); Francisco Araiza ( Ferrando ); Kathleen Battle ( Despina ); Sesto Bruscantini ( Don Alfonso ); Vienna St Op O & Ch Read more ARTHAUS 107 219 (2 DVDs: 188:00) Live: Salzburg 1983

Così fan tutte , the one-time wallflower of the trio of operas produced by composer Mozart and librettist Da Ponte, has these days found widespread popularity, both on stage and on recordings, if not yet quite a match for its highly regarded partners, Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro . As example, there are now an incredible 17 commercial DVDs available of the opera, this 1983 production from the Salzburg Festival one of the earlier and better of them. The story of two young sisters of Naples whose constancy is tested by their soldier lovers at the instigation of the cynical older friend Don Alfonzo with the aid of the scheming maid Despina is either a rather light, charming period farce or an engaging psychological drama of amorous relationships, depending on what you read. I, for one, lean more to the charming farce school, but whatever the merits of the libretto there is no doubt that this is the young genius Mozart bringing his A game, a score filled with inspired arias as well as many beautiful lyrical ensembles; the music is consistently sublime, and perhaps one of the greatest opera scores ever written.

There is much to like about this Salzburg DVD now on the Arthaus Musik label. You can easily just sit back and bask in the wonderful musical sounds made by the Vienna Philharmonic under the leadership of the young Riccardo Muti. The maestro keeps tempos brisk, perhaps a bit too brisk at times, not fully allowing the singers to expand into the music, but by and large he moves the action along crisply, to the benefit of the work. The singers themselves are all strong. Unlike Il Trovatore , which is said to require four great singers, Così requires six very good ones, and has them here. The Fiordiligi, Margaret Marshall, sings her two famous arias very well and consistently supplies the bright top to the many ensembles she takes part in. As an actress, Marshall smiles a bit too much for a portrayal of the sister devastated by the loss of her lover in act I and sorely conflicted by a new suitor in act II, but she seems so nice you can’t help but root for her. A fine Dorabella is turned in by the well-known and excellent mezzo-soprano Ann Murray without perhaps giving us the last bit of the flirtatious, man-loving younger sister Da Ponti intended and Mozart sketched into her music. The men sing equally excellently, led by a young James Morris as Guglielmo and a solid Sesto Bruscantini as Don Alfonso. The silvery-voiced, impish Despina of Kathleen Battle almost steals the show. Standard cuts of the short Ferrando-Guglielmo duet in act I and Ferrando’s act II aria “Ah! Lo veggio” are made.

One significant drawback to this set is the recorded sound of the singers; the balance is noticeably recessed and they all sound overly resonant. This can be corrected to some degree by frequency controls on the stereo receiver. The orchestra, by contrast, sounds very good, even if it overwhelms the voices in a few spots. Sets and costumes are traditional and richly appointed, finely evocative of the opera’s summery Mediterranean setting.

Most of the 17 Così DVDs have been reviewed in the pages of Fanfare, including this current one. In Fanfare 30:2 Joel Kaskow’s opening comment is, “What a relief to see a production so resolutely old-fashioned in appearance,” and I totally agree. I don’t really have an axe to grind with the many regietheatre productions of today; many are entertaining and provide much enjoyment, while at least a portion of their ultimate value will be sorted out at the box office. Those types of productions filmed for posterity, however, are not for me. Give me old-fashioned any day so I can pull the DVD back out and enjoy multiple viewings of the basic opera over the years.

As for other recommendations, I have viewed the second Muti DVD set from La Scala in 1996. It uses the same production, sets, and costumes as this earlier video; it also has fine singers and it is produced in better sound. It is also spoiled somewhat by the poorly thought-out superimposition of Muti’s benevolent visage over that of the singers during the beautiful act I trio after the soldiers have sailed away and over both finales, as if the deity of La Scala is smiling down on what he has wrought. The Zurich set with Cecilia Bartoli as Fiordiligi under the baton of Nikolaus Harnoncourt also is well done and has fine singers, but one may be put off by the rather odd “school for lovers” concept adopted. Barry Brenesal has high praise in Fanfare 32:3 for Muti’s third outing of the opera in Vienna with Barbara Frittoli as the elder sister, and Peter J. Rabinowitz in Fanfare 33:3 likes the 2006 Glyndebourne set led by Iván Fischer with Miah Persson and Anke Vondung as the sisters on Opus Arte. I would wager those are both fine choices, though I haven’t seen them. If you want to take a chance on the sonics, go ahead and try this Arthaus DVD; it provides much to like.

FANFARE: Bill White


Kathleen Battle, Margaret Marshall, Ann Murray, Francisco Araiza, James Morris, Sesto Bruscantini, Vienna Philharmonic, Riccardo Muti (conductor), Michael Hampe (director), Mauro Pagano (design)

Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Audio Format: PCM Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Production Year: 1983
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Works on This Recording

Cosě fan tutte, K 588 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  James Morris (Bass), Ann Murray (Mezzo Soprano), Kathleen Battle (Soprano),
Margaret Marshall (Soprano), Francisco Araiza (Tenor), Sesto Bruscantini (Baritone)
Conductor:  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1790; Vienna, Austria 

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