Fun, moving and gripping, worth seeing for Garanca alone!
Cosi Fan Tutte is perhaps Mozart's most psychologically complex opera, and also one of his best. Amongst the gripping story, the characters that warm your heart and fun comedy there is the typically sublime Mozart music. Soave Sia Il Vento and Il Core Vi Dono the very definition of operatic heaven, one of my favourite operatic moments to play while bathing alongside anything Puccini and the Pearl Fishers Duet. This is not my favourite Cosi production, my favourites are still the 1989, 2000 and 1992 performances, and the 2006 production and Ponnelle film are not far off either.
However, it is still fun, moving and gripping, very like the opera itself. It is a little more serious in tone than some other Cosis I've seen, with showing a more sorrowful view of someone loving more than one person and accepting it, but still it never loses the opera's charm and heart and never feels overly cynical. Soave Sia Il Vento is heavenly, and the final scene is very moving and bittersweet as they should be. The comic opera buffa elements are very well timed too.
Visually, it is both modern and traditional considering the outdoor venue, still sumptuous in costuming and unexpectedly and impressively dark at times. The staging is often rapid and always moving, giving the production a lot of life, and the camera work is telling and always focusing on something or someone. The orchestra are stylish and play beautifully, bringing energy to the big arias(Donna Meie La Fante A Tanti is very exciting here) while proving sensitive accompanists to the storytelling in the recitatives. Daniel Harding's conducting is brisk and assured.
There are a couple of faults though. While you can definitely still hear the singers, there are occasions where they sound overwhelmed by the orchestra. I don't blame the singers here, I think the problem is more to do with how closely mikked the orchestra is due to the layout. Also, some of the ensembles seemed off pace-wise, sounding ragged, as if they couldn't hear the orchestra very well. This is understandable as the performance is outdoors, but I couldn't help thinking that the most important parts of Cosi Fan Tutte weren't intensity-building and effective as they could've been.
I cannot fault the singing though. The cast is great, with Elina Garanca and Ruggero Raimondi perhaps being the most well known, and all give solid performances. The best for me was Elina Garanca, whose Dorabella is marvellous. Her voice is that of a true mezzo, large and opulent, sometimes dark but always beautiful and flexible. I also loved how Dorabella was the more sophisticated of the two sisters, a different take but one that works. Erin Wall has a more silvery and just as expressive voice, that contrasts wonderfully when she and Garanca sing together. She is very charming on stage, looking very striking against Garanca, and sings a winning Per Pieta.
Shawn Mathey mayn't be the most exciting of all actors, coming across as a tad stiff occasionally, but he is a good presence as Ferrando. He fares better vocally, the tone is pleasing and Un Aura Amarosa, one of my personal favourite arias of the entire opera, is heart-melting. Stephane Degout is a dramatically alert and humorous Guglielmo, complete with an exciting(in alternative to forced or dull) Donna Meie La Fate A Tanti, where the singing is musical and robust perfect for the contrasts in Guglielmo's mood in the aria(sympathetic then vengeful).
Barbara Bonney is not in her very best voice as Despina, coming from somebody who gets a lot of pleasure from her gorgeous Sophie(Der Rosenkavalier), but still sounds gleaming and agile at the top, and she is still saucy and amusing in the role of the scheming maid. Ruggero Raimondi is also not at his very best, the singing is still expressive and forthright if lacking the power vocally of his Don Giovanni and occasionally under-pitch(my favourite Alfonso on DVD is between Carlos Chausson and Claudio Desderi). To be fair though, of all the 6 characters Alfonso has I think the least beautiful music. But he is an extraordinary actor(loved his characterful physical mannerisms), making Alfonso cynical, world-weary and amusing.
Overall, a very good Cosi, not my first choice, but the cast especially Garanca makes it worth seeing. 7.5/10 Bethany Cox
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