Top positive review
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Brilliant singing from the two women principals
on 1 January 2008
When it was first performed, this opera was described as an opera buffa, but although there is much comedy (and the comedy element is given emphasis in this production), the opera has a dark and somewhat disturbing side. The plot, slight and amusing at first glance, deals with the sometimes anguished struggles that take place among constancy, sexual desire, and love between the sexes. The Victorians thought Così fan Tutte outrageous and vulgar, but times change and nowadays Così is generally considered to be one of the most satisfying and thought-provoking of the Mozart operas. The music without doubt is astounding, and is representative of Mozart at the very height of his powers.
This beautifully presented production (the singers appear in period clothes, for once, and perform against plain and well lit, pastel-coloured sets) is very successful indeed. The stars are the gifted young Swedish soprano Miah Persson (as Fiordiligi) and the German mezzo-soprano Anke Vondung (as Dorabella). Their singing is never less than excellent and is often quite ravishing. Miah Persson reminds me very much of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as she was in the mid-1950s (when I began to collect classical music records). Anke Vondung is almost equally impressive, and some of the duets sung by the two young women are quite brilliantly done. Though the two women principals stand out (in part, it must be said, because they have the best of the music) the rest of the singing is very good indeed. The two young male singers (Topi Lehtipuu and Luca Pisaroni) who share the centre of the action with the two ladies are very accomplished, and sing impressively. Conducting and orchestral playing are of a high standard throughout.
This is essentially an opera for six voices, and the only disappointment, in my opinion, is the relative weakness of the third pair of singers - Ainhoa Garmendia (as the scheming maid Despina) and Nicolas Rivenq (as the manipulative Don Alfonso). The former somehow gives the impression of not being thoroughly at home in her role, and the latter, who seems a little under-powered and takes quite a while to get going, has been poorly characterized by the director, who presents him as a rather good and even jolly sort of fellow instead of the unattractive and world-weary cynic that the libretto leads us to expect. But these are relatively small quibbles. The weaknesses of this production are far outweighed by the strong points, and this version of the opera can be confidently recommended.