Sony Classical continues its major Mozart opera project with conductor Teodor Currentzis and his orchestra & choir MusicAeterna. A ‘no-compromise’ studio recording cycle of Mozart’s three Da Ponte operas. Living in a unique artistic community established on the edge of Siberia, the musicians work and record under ideal conditions towards Currentzis’ stated goal “to show what can be achieved if you avoid the factory approach of the classical music mainstream”. The soloists’ vocal technique is also markedly different to modern operatic interpretation, with a focus on intimacy and clarity, a use of vibrato remarkably restrictive even by today’s ‘period practice’ standards as well as an approach to melodic ornamentation derived from historic sources which cannot be heard in other performances of these works.
It is more than twenty years since Solti last recorded Così for Decca, and if that earlier version was far from ideally cast, this new one more than makes amends. Above all, it has a commanding Fiordiligi in Renée Fleming, who conveys all the tragic vulnerability of this central character. Her performance of the great second-act rondo ‘Per pietà’ would be enough to melt the hardest of hearts. Anne Sofie von Otter and Olaf Bär are in fine form, too; and while Adelina Scarabelli is not exactly a mistress of disguises (she scarcely alters her voice at all for Despina’s part as the mesmeric doctor), her vitality is irresistible. More contentious is the Ferrando of Frank Lopardo. True, he can scale down his voice admirably, but all too often he lacks a genuine sense of line, and his intonation is unreliable.
The old philosopher Don Alfonso enrages his two friends, the officers Ferrando and Guglielmo, with his claim that their fiancées will sooner or later be unfaithful to them - like all women. He proposes a wager, which the two friends accept. They swear on their honour as soldiers that they will prove him wrong and that Dorabella and Fiordiligi are not like “all women”. The immaculately restored eighteenth-century Court Theatre at the country residence of the Swedish Royal Family is the ideal home for period opera. Ever since Drottningholm Court Theatre was rediscovered in the 1920s, it has served as a living memorial to the fabulous extravagance of courtly entertainment and provided the wherewithal for the recreation of the spectacular scenic transformations of the seventeenth and eighteenth century operatic repertoire. The conductor Arnold Östman was appointed Drottningholm’s Artistic Director in 1980 and immediately set about establishing a Drottningholm Mozart style, attempting to recapture an authentic flavour through detailed historical research and the use of period instruments. He collaborates with German producer Willy Decker on this ever-popular Mozart comedy with an extensively rehearsed cast of young Swedish singers who “…proved a triumph of stylish teamwork, with singers and orchestra listening to each other, almost as it were breathing together.” (Daily Telegraph)
"There's plenty of life and vigour in the performance…Lorengar's Fiordiligi is affectingly interpreted and confidently delivered… Berganza sings with supple phrasing and firm tone… Ryland Davies's Ferrando is keen and pleasing in tone, secure in line, a great improvement on Gedda (Davis), and particularly eloquent in eventually breaking down the vulnerable defences of Lorengar's Fiordiligi. "Un' aura amorosa" would yield to tenderer accents, but the two Second Act arias are faultless in delivery. Krause is a seductive and articulate Guglielmo, Bacquier among the most ebullient of Alfonsos, who makes the most of every opportunity—a performance that brings the singer's very individual presence into the home. Some decorations are offered. The recitative is taken in lively fashion with Jeffrey Tate providing nice touches at the harpsichord. I enjoyed hearing Solti's version again more than I expected, not least because it conveys a sense of joy on all sides in actually performing the piece—that counts for much." – Gramophone
Nikolaus Harnoncourt is one of the few true stars among conductors worldwide. Performances like the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra enable him to reach an audience of millions, displaying the characteristic passion and fiery intensity that identify him, first and foremost, as a true servant of his art. His first opera production dates from 1971, when he conducted Monteverdi‘s “Il ritorno d‘Ulisse in patria” at the Theater an der Wien, and soon after this he embarked on a fruitful cooperation with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle at the Zurich Opera. Harnoncourt has maintained his close connection with the Zurich Opera to this day. Arthaus Musik presents two of his legendary Zurich productions in this unique Opera Collection. Staged by the famous director Jürgen Flimm, with renowned stars of the opera scene as Cecilia Bartoli, Rodney Gilfry, Liliana Nikiteanu and Roberto Saccà, this recordings are true highlights of Maestro Harnoncourt‘s work.
This is a movie version of Cosi in which the performers lip synch to a pre-recorded sound track. I expected it to detract mightily from the quality of the production, but it doesn't for two reasons. First, the lip synching is just about flawless. I don't recall seeing lips moving without the words matching (although there's a slight change in the tone of the audio as the singing starts and the soundtrack switches to "pre-recorded" mode). Second, the director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle gathered a first-rate group of performers, led by the great Edita Gruberova as Fiordiligi. Gruberova's "Per pieta" is reason alone to see (and hear) this production.By Toni Bernhard
In the early 1990s Daniel Barenboim recorded the three Da Ponte operas with the Berlin Philharmonic. The BPO had played "Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" many times, but this was the first time that the group had ever tackled "Cosi fan tutte." Perhaps that is why they sound so fresh and energized under the thoughtful baton of Barenboim. Mozart's operas are usually performed with a small chamber or opera house orchestra, but this time the score of "Cosi" (which has so many beautiful, subtle touches, and is almost a celebration of beauty itself) is given the full treatment of perhaps the greatest orchestra in the world. While the resulting sound is somewhat "bigger" and more "lush" than is usual, Barenboim does manage to keep things appropriately light and "classical," just as he has so successfully done in the piano concertos which he is recording with the BPO.
When this staging was presented in 1992, in various theatres, Gardiner decided to be his own director because he didn't trust any available alternative to be faithful to Da Ponte's and Mozart's original. In the circumstances his was a sensible decision because his deeply discerning stage interpretation perfectly seconds his own musically perceptive reading. His keen understanding of what this endlessly fascinating work is about is made plain in his absorbing essay in the booklet.
Mozart's genius in setting to music Da Ponte's comic play of love, infidelity and forgiveness marks Così fan tutte as one of the great works of art from the Age of Enlightenment. Nicholas Hytner's beautiful production for the Glyndebourne Festival in 2006, with its sure touch and theatrical know-how, lives up to its promise to be 'shockingly traditional', while Iván Fischer teases artful performances from an outstanding international cast of convincing young lovers.