Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Così fan tutte
CAST: Fiordiligi: Miah Persson, Dorabella: Anke Vondung, Ferrando: Topi Lehtipuu, Gugliemo: Luca Pisaroni, Despina: Ainhoa Garmendia, Don Alfonso: Nicola Rivenq
Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment
Ivan Fischer, conductor
Stage director: Nicholas Hytner
Opus Arte, 2009
Among the many bizarre Così fan tutte that have been staged and recorded in the last years, this production staged in Glyndebourne in 2006 appears as a plain and balanced approach to Mozart’s masterpiece, allowing not to be disturbed by a grotesque and extravagant setting and to enjoy the beauty of this music, performed in an excellent way by remarkable artists.
The setting is essential and not elaborated in the best meaning of the terms. There are few pieces of furniture, enough to remove the idea that the action takes place in the last years of the 18th century, but not to give a more precise indication of the historical period. The interiors of Dorabella and Fiordiligi’s Neapolitan home are extremely simple but luminous and the characters’ costumes too are vague. The opera is therefore set in a remote but indefinite past, something that is not necessarily a limitation as the stage direction allows to follow the action without being distracted by superfluous details. The few items (a small desk, two deckchairs, the orange trees, a sunshade parasol and an exotic tent) add a touch of elegance that is really not disappointing.
The stage direction has its undisputable merits, but the real wonder of this Così fan tutte are the four singers interpreting the two couples of lovers. Miah Persson (Fiordiligi), Anke Vondung (Dorabella), Topi Lehtipuu (Ferrando) and Luca Pisaroni (Guglielmo) are not only singers, but actors too and their naturalness and vivacity are qualities that are not inferior to their singing. Miah Persson has all the features to be an ideal Fiordiligi: apart from her low register, which is rather weak (a flaw that she has improved in the next years), she has a perfect control of her breath and agility and her voice has a luminous and velvety timbre. Moreover, she has the temperament to make Fiordiligi a true human being and her hesitation between her fiancé Guglielmo and the Turk suitor does not appear as bigotry or prudery, but seems really to torment her soul. Persson’s two arias (Come scoglio and Per pietà, ben mio, perdona) contribute to accentuate the impression that this is precisely her aim and, apart from this, are among the best moments of the opera and can be favourably compared to the performances of many other great primedonne.
Anke Vondung’s Dorabella is a completely different matter. The German mezzosoprano does everything she can to endow her character with a funny, frivolous and a bit dull nature (some of her amusing grimaces clearly point out that Dorabella is not one of the most intelligent women…) and in the end she deprives Dorabella of Fiordiligi’s dignity, but endows her with a huge amount of sympathy. Her singing accentuates her characterization that, if it is never caricatural thanks to her innate elegance, is anyway a funny parody. Dorabella’s aria È amore un ladroncello is maybe the piece in which Vondung reveals with more clarity her temperament. The best feature of this singer is, anyway, that she combines with her spontaneous acting a way of singing that is one of the most serious. Her beautiful voice is very well trained and allows her to linger on the perfecting of the nuances of her role without much trouble for the technical part of singing. These features makes Vondung a perfect Mozartian singer.
Topi Lehtipuu is a romantic, even too much tender Ferrando. The tenor too is fine performer and his aria Un’aura amorosa is an enchanting moment combining a marvellous voice (with the only flaw of a little less beautiful high notes) to a rare inspiration. The wonderful outcome of this aria makes one regret that Ferrando’s second aria Ah, lo veggio, quell’anima bella, has been cut, certainly depriving the listeners of another delight.
Luca Pisaroni has once said that he thinks of Guglielmo as a future Don Alfonso and for this reason he tends to accentuate the dark side of the character. If this is his purpose, he completely succeeds here. If his Guglielmo is still a naïve and humorous character when he (remarkably) sings Non siate ritrosi in the first act, in his aria from act two (Donne mie, la fate a tanti) he is really scorned and indignant for the infidelity of his friend’s betrothed and it is guessable that his indignation has awakened in him a pessimism that later will be difficult to overcome, an impression that is confirmed at the end of the opera for the way he sings «Ah, bevessero del tossico…» in the quartet E nel tuo, nel mio bicchiero. These nuances, together with the elegant singing that has always characterized Pisaroni, makes him the fourth, great singer of this Così fan tutte.
Aihnoa Garmendia (Despina) and Nicolas Rivenq (Don Alfonso) are less exhilarating. Garmendia is not a bad singer, but her voice is not particularly beautiful and her Despina, although indisputably cunning, lacks the charming wit that is usually so nice to hear from her, while Rivenq seems completely out of place in the shoes of the old philosopher and his performance is rather dry, even indifferent and this is actually the only feeling he arouses in those who listen to him.
Ivan Fischer and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment are the last but not less important worth of Così fan tutte. The conduction is lively, brilliant and the orchestral sound is light and joyous. The guiding thread is clearly that it is better not to take anything seriously and to judge every event with the “quietness” evoked in the final sextet.
The Glyndebourne Così fan tutte is definitely a wonderful DVD that will please eyes and ears at the same time. If you like “traditional” sets and if you love well performed music, this is really a recording that will satisfy you from any point of view.