Così fan tutte

 

Mozart Così fan tutte opera to libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Directed 2009 by Claus Guth at Salzburg Festival (Haus für Mozart). Stars Miah Persson (Fiordiligi), Isabel Leonard (Dorabella), Florian Boesch (Guglielmo), Topi Lehtipuu (Ferrando), Patricia Petibon (Despina), and Bo Skovhus (Don Alfonso). Adam Fischer conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker and Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master Thomas Lang). Stage design by Christian Schmidt; costumes by Anna Sofie Tuma; lighting by Olaf Winter; dramatic advice by Andri Hardmeier; video by Alexander Buresch and Kai Ehlers; choreography by Ramses Sigl; TV direction by Brian Large. Released 2010, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B

Since we already have a wonderful traditional version of Così from Glyndebourne, there's no harm in adding a Claus Guth regietheater version. This production has real trash littering the stage as well as trademarked Guth touches like a tri-level set with big stairs, feathers, (see Guth Salzburg Festival Nozze di Figaro), and a forest (see Guth Salzburg Festival Don Giovanni). But updating to modern times puts this libretto under tons of strain. Beautiful, sophisticated, single women these days are not overwhelmingly concerned about virginity and faithfulness. Disguise tricks were a staple of comedy for centuries, but that convention is dead. So Guth can't swap partners with disguises in a modern setting. The story as presented by Guth involves weird antics that will probably be incomprehensible to one not already thoroughly familiar with this opera. Time for some snapshots.

An apartment party is over. Don Alfonso (Bo Skovhus), a cynic, stands between two younger friends, Ferrando (Topi Lehtipuu) and Guglielmo (Florian Boesch), who are engage to the hostesses, two beautiful sisters. The young men brag about the faithfulness of their sweethearts. Don Alfonso challenges their assertions, and this leads to a bet on soldier's honor:  Don Alfonso wins if, within one day, he can bring the girls to cheat:

Meet our party girls: Fiordiligi (Miah Persson) and Dorabella (Isabel Leonard):

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The girls are tricked into believing the men are called up for a military emergency. Here the sad goodbyes between Guglielmo and Fiordiligi and Ferrando and Dorabella:

Despina the maid (Patricia Petibon):

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Here is Dorabella's aria of anguish, "Smanie implacabili che m'agitata." Isabel Leonard proves her courage by standing 18 feet over the floor on a 16 inch board without a safety line:

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Don Alfonso recruits Despina to help with his plot:

Now the men return in white suit disguise. Guth comes up with a number of tricks to allow the men to hit on the girls without being recognized:

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Dorabella is not too hard to persuade:

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And soon the girls are matched up, but each with the wrong guy.  The guys have to keep a straight face due to the terms of their bet. But Despina is horrified:

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Guglielmo figures Dorabella will resist and the let the guys win the bet.

But the rules require Guglielmo to try hard:

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And look what happens!

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Fiordiligi is more serious than her sister. Here are scenes from her great rondo, "Per pieta, ben mio, perdona":

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The men have lost a lot more than money. But who is to blame?

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Still, the men try to blame the girls ["So do they all!]:

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But the girls redeem themselves: they are ready to get married!

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Now Don Alfonso has won, and he must work out a soft landing. The news aRrives that Guglielmo and Fiordiligi have been released from duty and are expected any minute:

Panic ensues as the girls strip their wedding dresses and put on party duds again. When the girls find out how they were duped, everybody (except Don Alfonso) will be equally unhappy. But now that the right lovers are together again, Don Alfonzo tells them to marry immediately. Thanks to his wager, they will all be wiser and happier than before:

To sum up: This version of Così is for folks who have seen enough traditional productions and are ready for something different. These folks would have to be delighted with this super cast of great singer-actors, the Wiener Philhamoniker, and sharp video by Brian Large.  But as the director presents a more modern setting with sophisticated girls, the harder it is for the director to create a deception by disguise and the less funny the show is. Grade: "B."