Mozart: Così fan tutte

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: DG Archiv
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Così fan tutte
PERFORMER: Amanda Roocroft, Rosa Mannion, Rodney Gilfry, Rainer Trost, Eirian James, Claudio Nicolai; Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner; dir. Gardiner (Paris, 1992)
CATALOGUE NO: 073 026-9
Conductors rarely have the time or the inclination to stage productions – though Mahler frequently did so in Vienna. But in this 1992 performance from the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, John Eliot Gardiner assumes both roles and – with some assistance from Stephen Medcalf – brings it off. Indeed, the production is a model one, because the musical and dramatic values interlock rather than contradicting one another.

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He has the advantage of a young, good-looking and vocally expert quartet of lovers, led by Amanda Roocroft’s enchanting Fiordiligi, with a highly appealing Dorabella from Rosa Mannion. She, together with Gardiner’s booklet note, convinces me that a soprano is preferable to the usual mezzo in the role. Presumably for reasons of vocal variety, Despina is therefore sung by a mezzo – the vivid Eirian James – which also works well. Rainer Trost makes a pleasing Ferrando, Rodney Gilfry a sparky Guglielmo and Claudio Nicolai’s worldly wise Alfonso completes the sextet.

Designs by Carlo Tommasi place the action in an elegant 18th-century Neapolitan setting. Vesuvius looms in the background, as Da Ponte intended, as a symbol of latent passion, while the garden that grows ever more rampant in Act II also underlines the dangers inherent in expressions of natural feeling.

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Apart from Gardiner’s note, the booklet contains only a synopsis and photographs. On the disc itself the bonuses turn out to be trailers. But the performance is top-quality from start to finish, thoughtfully filmed and in excellent sound.