RECENT: Defining Our Field - what is 'classical music' to us, why are we involved and what can we learn from our differences? Read John Dante Prevedini's essay, watch the panel discussion and make your own comments.
Great conductors are nearly competing in rendering Mozart's Così fan tutte. Riccardo Muti is in the pit in Turin; pretty soon we will see and listen to a Florence production conducted by Zubin Mehta. The opera is so well known that there no need to summarize the plot.
The Turin production is conducted by Riccardo Muti, directed by Chiara Muti, with sets by Leila Feifta, costumes by Alessandro Lai and lighting by Vincent Longuemare.
It is a joint operation with the Naples San Carlo Theatre (where in December 2018 it inaugurated the 2018-2019 season), and with the Vienna State Opera (where it was supposed to debut in May 2020, postponed due to Covid, but will sooner or later enter the repertoire) as well as Turin's Teatro Regio. It can be seen and listened to on the Teatro Regio web site for a few months. In Italy, the production has been greatly appreciated by reviewers. I was not enthralled.
I saw and listened to it on 24 March 2021; there was no technical audio problem as experienced during another opera recently reviewed in this magazine - Half and Half, 21 March 2021. The production has not, however, been adapted to the new medium as recently done for works staged in Rome, Palermo and Milan (to name a few examples). On the PC monitor, you can see the opera as it would be seen in the theatre, a vision, however, two-dimensional and without the tension of being inside a theatre for a live performance. Listening depends on the quality of the headphones. So much so: these days we have to settle for streaming.
Così fan tutte is Mozart's most 'visited' opera by Muti for over fifty years. He has delved into the score with care and love, giving meaning and depth to a text that could almost appear as a farce. He made it a true 'adult comedy', to use the contemporary lexicon, and gave the right balance to the 'playful' and 'bitter' elements, as well as to the cynicism that pervades the story. There is great attention to detail: for example, to feel the sea breezes and melancholy from the violas at the end of the trio of the first act 'Soave sia il vento' and to make the belcantistic premonitions in arias such as 'Come scoglio'.
Muti has undoubtedly worked a lot on the singers. Eleonaro Buratto (Fiordiligi) has a perfect, homogeneous and beautifully calibrated emission.
Paola Gardina (Dorabella) gives a clear vocal contrast to Buratto.
Francesca Di Sauro is a cunning Despina who is the counterpart to the two protagonists. Alessandro Luongo (Guglielmo) has an impetuous vocality juxtaposed with the soft and almost tender Ferrando of Giovanni Sala.
Compared to the two young couples, Marco Filippo Romano's Don Alfonso is an experienced man who looks with a cynical irony at life and at the young people of whom he is the puppeteer.
In short, a wonderful musical performance that I hope will become a CD.
The dramaturgical part, however, is questionable - especially the stage direction. It starts well: a sunny Naples and a blue sea, the girls in white clothes (like the walls of the buildings) and the men in light brown; the two young men put themselves in Bordeaux red suits when they dress as rich Albanians.
As the action progresses, while in the pit there is a balance between comedy, bitter moments and cynicism, a farce takes place on stage where the set is increasingly crowded with extras, mimes and masks, creating a great deal of confusion.
I believe that directors who approach Così fan tutte must carefully study Guido Cantelli's recording for the inauguration of the Piccola Scala in 1956 - it was telecast on Eurovision - or that by Patrice Chéreau for the 2015 Aix en Provence Festival - it toured all over the world and there is an excellent DVD.
Copyright © 27 March 2021