The old philosopher Don Alfonso enrages his two friends, the officers Ferrando and Guglielmo, with his claim that their fiancées will sooner or later be unfaithful to them - like all women. He proposes a wager, which the two friends accept. They swear on their honour as soldiers that they will prove him wrong and that Dorabella and Fiordiligi are not like “all women”. The immaculately restored eighteenth-century Court Theatre at the country residence of the Swedish Royal Family is the ideal home for period opera. Ever since Drottningholm Court Theatre was rediscovered in the 1920s, it has served as a living memorial to the fabulous extravagance of courtly entertainment and provided the wherewithal for the recreation of the spectacular scenic transformations of the seventeenth and eighteenth century operatic repertoire. The conductor Arnold Östman was appointed Drottningholm’s Artistic Director in 1980 and immediately set about establishing a Drottningholm Mozart style, attempting to recapture an authentic flavour through detailed historical research and the use of period instruments. He collaborates with German producer Willy Decker on this ever-popular Mozart comedy with an extensively rehearsed cast of young Swedish singers who “…proved a triumph of stylish teamwork, with singers and orchestra listening to each other, almost as it were breathing together.” (Daily Telegraph)
Sony Classical continues its major Mozart opera project with conductor Teodor Currentzis and his orchestra & choir MusicAeterna. A ‘no-compromise’ studio recording cycle of Mozart’s three Da Ponte operas. Living in a unique artistic community established on the edge of Siberia, the musicians work and record under ideal conditions towards Currentzis’ stated goal “to show what can be achieved if you avoid the factory approach of the classical music mainstream”. The soloists’ vocal technique is also markedly different to modern operatic interpretation, with a focus on intimacy and clarity, a use of vibrato remarkably restrictive even by today’s ‘period practice’ standards as well as an approach to melodic ornamentation derived from historic sources which cannot be heard in other performances of these works.
In the early 1990s Daniel Barenboim recorded the three Da Ponte operas with the Berlin Philharmonic. The BPO had played "Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" many times, but this was the first time that the group had ever tackled "Cosi fan tutte." Perhaps that is why they sound so fresh and energized under the thoughtful baton of Barenboim. Mozart's operas are usually performed with a small chamber or opera house orchestra, but this time the score of "Cosi" (which has so many beautiful, subtle touches, and is almost a celebration of beauty itself) is given the full treatment of perhaps the greatest orchestra in the world. While the resulting sound is somewhat "bigger" and more "lush" than is usual, Barenboim does manage to keep things appropriately light and "classical," just as he has so successfully done in the piano concertos which he is recording with the BPO.
When this staging was presented in 1992, in various theatres, Gardiner decided to be his own director because he didn't trust any available alternative to be faithful to Da Ponte's and Mozart's original. In the circumstances his was a sensible decision because his deeply discerning stage interpretation perfectly seconds his own musically perceptive reading. His keen understanding of what this endlessly fascinating work is about is made plain in his absorbing essay in the booklet.
Mozart's genius in setting to music Da Ponte's comic play of love, infidelity and forgiveness marks Così fan tutte as one of the great works of art from the Age of Enlightenment. Nicholas Hytner's beautiful production for the Glyndebourne Festival in 2006, with its sure touch and theatrical know-how, lives up to its promise to be 'shockingly traditional', while Iván Fischer teases artful performances from an outstanding international cast of convincing young lovers.
Who loves whom in Così fan tutte, Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s cruelly comic reflection on desire, fidelity and betrayal? Or have the confusions to which the main characters subject one another ensured that in spite of the heartfelt love duets and superficially fleetfooted comedy nothing will work any longer and that a sense of emotional erosion has replaced true feelings? Così fan tutte is a timeless work full of questions that affect us all. The Academy Award-winning director Michael Haneke once said that he was merely being precise and did not want to distort reality.
There are many things to enjoy about this period-instrument Cosi: the convincing sense of style that runs through it, the sweetness of the orchestral sound, the due observance of the appoggiaturas (which matches the music so happily to the natural stress of the words), the general fluency and sense of theatrical presentation. Some listeners may find, as I do, certain of the tempos excessively rapid. This new CD ver sion provides a warm, well-defined sound, in general a marginal improvement on the LPs, of course without the slightest surface interference and with just a touch more of clarity and fullness, especially in the ensembles, where the different threads are even more easily distinguished. And the trumpets and drums, on whose prominence I remarked in discussing the LPs, come through still more markedly here. As before, the woodwind balance is exemplary. Firmly recommended to any open-minded lover of Mozart. S.S.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt is one of the few true stars among conductors worldwide. Performances like the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra enable him to reach an audience of millions, displaying the characteristic passion and fiery intensity that identify him, first and foremost, as a true servant of his art. His first opera production dates from 1971, when he conducted Monteverdi‘s “Il ritorno d‘Ulisse in patria” at the Theater an der Wien, and soon after this he embarked on a fruitful cooperation with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle at the Zurich Opera. Harnoncourt has maintained his close connection with the Zurich Opera to this day. Arthaus Musik presents two of his legendary Zurich productions in this unique Opera Collection. Staged by the famous director Jürgen Flimm, with renowned stars of the opera scene as Cecilia Bartoli, Rodney Gilfry, Liliana Nikiteanu and Roberto Saccà, this recordings are true highlights of Maestro Harnoncourt‘s work.