This production of this 2009 performance of Cosi fan Tutte from Zurich is set in period as regards costuming but with very crisp, clear cut designs and sharply defined colours for the unfussy backdrops to the action. This gives it a very modern feel as well. In my opinion this very successfully enables the opera to be set in its own period while at the same time enabling it to speak directly to a modern age.
This crisp feel to the production permeates everything. Welser-Most conducts with incisive precision and the orchestra and singers respond to every tiny detail with remarkable accuracy. It is rare to hear so much inner detail without recourse to highlighted microphones. This does not simply apply to instrumental or vocal lines but also applies to significant accenting within those lines. This is a meticulous performance and, as such, is typical of this conductor's normal style. It certainly makes for exhilarating music making here and all of the musicians are up to the considerable challenges involved. My ears tell me that natural brass instruments of Mozart's time are used in conjunction with modern strings and woodwind in this performance. This is becoming a frequent means of producing real brass bite at volume without overwhelming the rest of the orchestra. It works very well adding both drama and excitement as in this performance.
The singers are described on the disc sleeve as `A Mozart ensemble that currently is probably without equal in the opera world' (Badische Zeitung) and that seems to me to be a perfectly fair summary. Malin Hartelius as Fiordiligi has a beautiful voice with just a slight touch of creaminess to the texture. She shows complete ease with the more florid demands of her part and delivers fully on the emotional depths as her fidelity is tested to the limit. Her sister, Anna Bonitatibus, is musically her equal and the two of them make a believable and vibrant pair in their roles. The roles of Despina/notary, sung by Martina Jankova - another outstanding singer/actress, are despatched with complete flair and evident enjoyment. A strange and unexplained production decision occurs at the very end of this opera where all the main characters drink a toast to each other, but Fiordiligi's drink mistakenly contains the poison brandished earlier and then so carelessly not removed so she promptly dies. Why was this twist added to the opera?
The two fiancés/suitors, Javier Camarina and Ruben Drole, have excellent voices and fall into their double roles with enthusiasm. Oliver Widmer as Don Alfonso is more seriously impressive as appropriate to his role which clearly shows him to be another fine singer/actor. The individual quality of these 5 singers is readily apparent throughout this opera but it is in the ensemble moments that the accuracy of the opening press quote at the beginning of the previous paragraph really strikes home. The finale to either act is an astonishing vocal tour de force as Welser-Most accelerates towards the conclusions.
The imaging is crisp with fully involving camera work bringing a great sense of `being there' to the screen. The sound is excellent and is presented in DTS-HD 7.1 as well as stereo.
I have enjoyed this disc very much indeed and would rank it right at the top with the equally excellent Glyndebourne alternative. Choice between the two seems likely to be largely a matter of taste and this may ultimately revolve around the contentious demise or survival of Fiordiligi. Other than that I would expect this disc to give much pleasure and musical satisfaction to most purchasers and for that reason see no other reason to give it less than the full 5 star rating.