Mozart: Così fan tutte

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Virgin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Cos“ fan tutte
WORKS: Così fan tutte
PERFORMER: Erin Wall, Elina Garanca, Stéphane Degout, Shawn Mathey, Barbara Bonney, Ruggero Raimondi; Arnold Schönberg Chor; Mahler CO/Daniel Harding; dir. Patrice Chéreau (Aix-en-Provence, 2005).
CATALOGUE NO: 344 7169
PRESENTATION: ***

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The problem with Così fan tutte has

always been how to reconcile its

subtle and troubling exploration of

human emotions within its essentially

comic mode. Patrice Chéreau’s 2005

Aix staging more or less jettisons

comedy. Set backstage in an Italian

theatre (a self-conscious reference to

the director’s own operatic debut, in

Spoleto in 1969), it has the air of a

rehearsal, with the limited theatrical

paraphernalia revealed to the

audience, and performers sometimes

singing from the auditorium. It’s

an artificial construct and not an

unintelligent one, but the words

‘baby’ and ‘bathwater’ nevertheless

spring to mind.

Treating Così seriously is one

thing, but draining out its essential

good humour is another. The genius

of Mozart and Da Ponte consists in

an ability to balance comedy with

emotional pain. They can freeze

the laughter on your face, but in

Aix there was no laughter to freeze.

Harding’s conducting, too, eschews

sensuousness, wit and charm in favour of an ultra-disciplined, driven

quality. It’s impressive, but cold.

Good to very good performances

from the four young lovers, with

Shawn Mathey’s Ferrando providing

the most individual singing and

Elina Garanca’s Dorabella the

loveliest tone. Erin Wall’s Fiordiligi

and Stéphane Degout’s Guglielmo

are both highly presentable. Ruggero

Raimondi has just about enough

voice left for Don Alfonso, with

Barbara Bonney an unusually hardbitten

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Despina. George Hall