My heart sank when I realized that this was a 1960s version of Così but I quickly realized that it was a clever idea on director Doris Dörrie's part. The 1960s were a period of unprecedented sexual liberation and Mozart and Da Ponti's opera about near-wife swapping fits comfortably into it. The sets and costumes are brilliantly evocative of the period. I remember wearing a blue mohair suit like Don Alfonso's, but I don't remember wearing a brown trilby with it. I can also remember my girlfriend wearing a miniskirt with at zip up the front, just like Fiordiligi's. The sets too are evocative: I particularly liked the telephone and television in red plastic.
The opera opens in an airport departure lounge Guglielmo and Ferrando are about to fly off on business when they place their bet with Don Alfonso, played here not as an old man but as a colleague of about the same age. I enjoyed the dollybird air hostesses (that's what they were called in those days) and the mock sword-fights with umbrellas.
The two men return as hippies to woo each others' fiancées. There is no suggestion in this production that Fiordiligi and Dorabella recognize their suitors but they quickly yield to their advances. Guglielmo removes Dorabella's bra rather than her locket as proof that she has betrayed Ferrando. Ferrando returns from his assignation with Fiordiligi contentedly zipping up his fly. At the end of the opera everyone returns cheerfully to their own lover with none of the tension that one sometimes finds in this opera. There is more emphasis on comedy than the usual pathos in these scenes and, for once, one gets the impression that Da Ponti, the librettist, is getting the upper hand over Mozart the composer.
All six performers are in top form and the four lovers are well delineated so that the audience does not get confused as to who is wooing who, as can sometimes be the case. The whole thing is briskly conducted by Daniel Barenboim.