Mozart: Cosi fan tutte

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: C Major DVD
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Cosi fan tutte
WORKS: Cosi fan tutte
PERFORMER: Anett Fritsch, Paola Gardina, Juan Francisco Gatell, Andreas Wolf, Kerstin Avemo, William Shimell; Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real de Madrid/Sylvian Cambreling; dir. Michael Haneke
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 714508; Blu-ray: 714604

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This production from Madrid mostly features North European singers. It is directed by Michael Haneke, whose film Amour recently won an Academy Award. He is relatively new to opera though he was responsible for the 2006 production of Don Giovanni at the Paris Opera.

Haneke wants to emphasise ‘the Viennese, tragic side of Mozart’. To do this omits some light-hearted arias (Dorabella’s ‘È amore’, for example), dresses half the cast in sober modern clothes, and removes the traditional pantomimic disguises of Ferrando and Guglielmo for most of the opera. The usually relentlessly comic servant Despina (the Swedish soprano Kerstin Avemo) bristles with repressed Nordic sexual tension as Alfonso’s undeclared lover, and her rendition of the aria ‘In uomini’ is almost dysfunctional. Ferrando and Fiordiligi are opera seria types, but in Mozart’s version they end up not with each other but with more comic partners. Haneke ‘redresses’ this problem in more ways than one in this production: he makes the impulsive Dorabella wear a prim trouser-suit throughout, and the normally dignified Fiordiligi sports a flaming red dress, and flashes her thighs and knickers. Even so, the opera ends with a tug of war between the still unreconciled protagonists.

The singers are good middle-rankers, though not very distinctive vocally – partly because they often end up singing on the floor (eg in the Finale to Act I). There is a particularly assured performance from baritone William Shimell (Don Alfonso), though even he sings behind the beat largely because of the director’s insistence on giving primacy to individual words. This makes the recitatives very slow, and bypasses opportunities for tender legato (as in the beautiful quartet
‘E nel tuo’, Act II, scene 16). Despite these caveats this is a well-filmed, stunningly staged production that offers a novel view of Mozart’s opera as a masterpiece of postmodern non-closure.

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Anthony Pryer