15 January 2015 | TheLittleSongbird
Delightful Zurich production of one of Mozart's masterpieces
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 Peter Sellars production(haven't seen Netherlands' version yet), still has a lot of interesting things.
And this 2009 Zurich performance compares extremely favourably. The only thing that didn't work personally, like for a number of people, 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. 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, just loved what was done with Despina and even Ferrando and Guglielmo have more dimension to them.
The production visually looks 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 especially with the semi-circular walls, the piercing blue background and imposing tree. A lot of thought went into the costuming and it really shows, they're beautifully designed and are simple but elegant in colour. Having Ferrando and Guglielmo dressed identically in both guises worked very well and was visually striking. Fiordiligi and Dorabella are also dressed similarly though with a change to Fiordiligi's costume in Act 2, while Alfonso and Despina look their parts perfectly. The lighting is expressive and the production is very well shot, apart from the odd looking-somewhere-else-other-than-the-singer shot(but never in an amateurish way) 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, this Cosi is outstanding across the board. The orchestral playing is rhythmically precise and filled with energetic verve, there is always evidence of lovely, lyrical tone and good blending for a un-historically-informed performance, and while there is always depth to the playing the orchestra do equally well providing a Chamber music-like accompaniment. Franz Welser-Most's conducting is the very meaning of classy and exuberant, there is not a dull moment, yes even the slower than usual tempo for the Act 1 farewell quintet. The sound quality is crisp and clear, the orchestra and singers always sounding well-balanced together. All six principals are top notch, particularly Malin Hartelius and Martina Janckova. Hartelius sings with creamy expressiveness and has the right amount of flexibility while dramatically she makes for an irresistibly charming and affecting Fiordiligi. Janckova's Despina is a joy, there are not many other interpretations of Despina this spiteful(this is a Despina you don't want to mess with in a hurry) or hilarious and it was so much fun to watch, helped by that it was clear that Janckova was having so much fun with the role. Her voice also has a fullness and flexibility.
Anna Bonitatibus certainly does not fall in the shadow of Hartelius when they're on stage together. Like Hartelius Bonitatibus displays a lot of charm and matches her in vibrancy vocally(they blend beautifully with one another) but she is also wonderfully deadpan too in places. She over-dramatises a touch in places but that was part of the fun here. The Alfonso of Oliver Widmer is very enigmatic and, like with most Cosis, like the puppeteer of the action. He is not too jovial and neither is he too wicked, there is a bit of both but never too much of either. His voice is nice and robust without falling to bluster.
Javier Camarena sings Ferrando with a warm, lyrical sound and tasteful style, it's a sizable-sized voice that not to the extent that it sounds too heavy. Un Aura Amoroso melts the heart while Tradito, Schernito is thrillingly vicious. He is an ardent but never stiff actor and has moments of true intensity. Ruben Drole is terrific, his comic timing is nothing short of impeccable, he's a charismatic actor and he possesses a voice that's rich and robustly characterised, again like Widmer without resorting to force or blustering. Overall, delightful production of Cosi or anything, with the sole exception of that twist. Highly recommended. 9/10 Bethany Cox