Mozart: Così fan tutte

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Così fan tutte
PERFORMER: Janice Watson, Diana Montague, Christopher Maltman, Toby Spence, Lesley Garrett, Thomas Allen; Geoffrey Mitchell choir; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Charles Mackerras
This is an account of Così which seems to put momentum first. The opening chord, more ferocious than one would expect, gives way to a rattling overture, and tension and pace never let up. That suits the three opening trios, where the two young men are arguing with the elderly Don Alfonso, but as soon as their fiancées sing their first duet, I began to wonder if the sensuous, hedonistic element in Così was going to get its fair share of attention; by the time we arrive at the swooning farewell quintet and the famous trio, I had decided that we weren’t. It’s not the period instruments that prevent it, but the conductor’s emphasis on urgency above all else. Mackerras has a fine team of soloists, but as soon as the women enter you become acutely aware of slackness in enunciation. And Toby Spence, though he has a fearless, ringing voice, also sometimes has a sharp edge, and rarely sings softly. There isn’t a lot of warmth or affection in this account, and since that is what the Opera is concerned with, you’re left unmoved, even by the great climactic duet when Fiordiligi yields to Ferrando and betrays her betrothed. anice Watson sings very beautifully, but without specific intent, it often seems. The schemers, Thomas Allen and Lesley Garrett, are game veterans.