Picasso spoke haughtily of God who was just another artist in his eyes. In his own way, I wonder whether Mozart operated in the same dynamic. Here in Cosi fan tutte, he is the omnipotent puppeteer to a gaggle of marionettes, the aim being to mock their transient loves as if Cupid's projectiles were less arrows and more like darts at best and matter little in the end. In this lesson he is assisted immeasurably by Lorenzo da Ponte, a libertine in his own right.
Indisputably, the Karajan and Bohm ('63) sets command the field. Perhaps the duumvirate does not quite become a triumvirate with the advent (in my life at least) of this Lombard set but lordy lordy it runs them close. It is spearheaded by a glorious female cast: Te Kanawa, von Stade and Stratas. The man are of a lesser standard but only just. Re the latter: for whatever reason the recording does them no favours at times; listen to the start of `Di scrivermi ogni giorno' - surely this could have been better balanced. I also prefer Don Alfonso to be more saturnine in his characterisation.
For those among us who have participated in our own School for Lovers - like a shard of the sun being dropped into the sea - Soave Sia Il Vento remains a touchstone. Will we ever understand how Legge and his cast achieved the sonorities that they did in the Bohm '63? Ravishing as this Lombard is, it is more explicable.
Tempos are sensible throughout. God forbid that Mozart's characters should have time to converse, think and judge. For those who want to view K 588 through the eyes of a greyhound, get yourselves to Rene Jacobs' alternative: it's the grand derby for dishlickers.
I have long loved this recording and suspect that it gets overlooked when people are looking for just one set, on the grounds that it is not conducted by a more celebrated Mozartian such as Bohm or Karajan or Davis - yet the cast, particularly in the case of the women, is stellar. Te Kanawa is in creamiest voice, Von Stade matchless as Dorabella, and Stratas very funny - if occasionally joyfully OTT! In addition, David Rendall's Ferrando, recorded before he began to take on heavier roles, is delightful - probably his best recorded performance. It is suave, sensitive, passionate and beautifully true. Bastin and Huttenlocher are more ordinary in vocal quality but they act well, sing attractively and support their more renowned colleagues selflessly. Lombard's conducting is a little careful, but it's not as slow as some reviewers make out and I am weary of the rushed, breathless "authentic" approach; I like my Grand Opera to be grand. Lombard's vision is all of a piece and for me both the drama and the serene beauty of this most wonderful of all Mozart's wonderful operas emerge complete. Just try the sublime "brindisi" quartet in the Finale if you want to hear truly lovely singing - it's meltingly sung, yet Guglielmo's bitter asides punctuate it tellingly, so that no tension is lost.
This is one of the best performances of Cosi I have heard, and it's absolutely complete without any of the usual cuts. From a live perfomance recorded in 1992, it has a cast of young gifted singers who bring real acting skill as well as beautiful voices to bear on one of Mozart's greatest scores.
This is quintessential Mozart recorded in 1935 at Glyndebourne. Fritz Busch, 1890-1951, had been brought to the opera house by its founder, John Christie, 1882-1962. In its first season, 1934, The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan tutte were performed and the cast returned the following year to record the latter opera.
As Charles Haynes points out in the brochure, the performers selected ‘were not necessarily the biggest and most glamorous names but simply those that Busch and [the producer] Carl Ebert, 1887-1980, considered were best suited to the various parts in the two operas concerned.’ Ferrando and Gugliemo were sung by Heddle Nash, 1894-1961, and Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, 1897-1978, Fiordiligi and Dorabella by Ina Souez, 1908-92, and Luise Helletsgruber, 1898-1967, with Irene Eisinger, 1903-94, and John Brownlee, 1900-69, as Despina and Don Alfonso. The piano accompaniment for the recitatives is not too off-putting.
Souez and Helletsgruber are little known today but both create engaging personalities and blend perfectly with one another and the other singers. Nash and Domgraf-Fassbaender, father of Brigitte, are both better known and sing with lyricism and energy. Brownlee, although somewhat lacking intensity, demonstrates a talent for comedy whilst Eisinger deserves to be better known for her lightness, especially in recitatives. Much of the credit for the fine ensemble singing must go to Busch who creates a perfect balance between singers and orchestra, maintains tempi that neither flag nor feel rushed and never loses the sense of irony that accompanies all great performances of this most satisfying of operas.
The text includes descriptions of the production and the performers, the origins of the opera and a detailed synopsis. Purists will decry the cuts but, for me, these are more than compensated by the charm and sensitivity of the performances that come together to make this one of the highpoints of opera performance on record. I have not heard the Naxos version to compare but this version is very satisfying indeed.