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.
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.
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.