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2000, Salzburg festival, cosi fan tutte

Cosi fan Tutte

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Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Librettist: Lorenzo da Ponte
Venue and Dates: Kleines Festspielhaus, Salzburg
29 July (premiere), 1, 4, 7, 10, 14, 17 August 2000
Conductor: Lothar Zagrosek
Director: Hans Neuenfels
Scenery: Reinhard von der Thannen
Costumes: Reinhard von der Thannen
Produktionsdramaturgie: Yvonne Gebauer
Performers:
Ferrando : Rainer Trost
Guglielmo : Simon Keenlyside
Don Alfonso : Franz Hawlata
Fiordiligi : Karita Mattila
Dorabella : Vesselina Kasarova
Despina : María Bayo
The Vienna Philharmonic
Choir of the Vienna Staatsoper (Choir Master, Donald Palumbo)

Notes:

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Soundbites

George W. Loomis for Opera News 2000 http://www.metoperafamily.org/operanews/_archive/1100/inreview.1100.html

…At least Guth’s staging, for all its obviousness, grappled with the issues raised by the opera in question, which is more than can be said for Hans Neuenfels’s treatment of Così Fan Tutte in the Kleines Festspielhaus (seen Aug. 1). Here, Mozart’s intricate comedy about the unpredictability of love met Biology 101. All sorts of organisms got into the act: frogs, plants, mushrooms, dogs, even mosquitoes, most on a gigantic scale and none at all concerned with Così. There were also signs of a culinary motif, for Ferrando and Guglielmo participated in the first scene from different kitchens. The two ideas came together unforgettably in a film during the Act I duet for the women that showed a cut-up apple covered with tiny worms being served on a plate. This doesn’t begin to explain it all. Neuenfels devised a scenario for Fiordiligi’s “Per pietà” in which a blind man was accosted by three thugs.

Only someone with a strong artistic personality — in this case, Karita Mattila, in radiant voice — could have made statements of Fiordiligi’s arias in these circumstances. Would that mezzo Vesselina Kasarova had had a real chance to express herself as Dorabella. Instead, she almost became lost in the shuffle, despite offering singing that was sweet and musical. Yet the silver-voiced María Bayo, though oddly attired as a male, was somehow able to reveal the makings of a near-flawless Despina. Rainer Trost sang Ferrando with honeyed tones; he deserved a chance at “Ah, lo veggio,” which was cut. Simon Keenlyside was a suave Guglielmo, Franz Hawlata a straightforward, vocally plush Don Alfonso. The Vienna Philharmonic made warm, gorgeously traditional sounds under Lothar Zagrosek, who drove the opera at a brisk clip.

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What SK thought about this production.

From the Telegraph 2000 interview with Rupert Christiansen

…This simplicity comes as a welcome relief after a nasty time at the Salzburg Festival this summer, playing Guglielmo in Hans Neuenfels’s impenetrably weird deconstruction of Cosi fan tutte. He loyally denies that he hated it as much as 90 per cent of the audience and critics did, but admits he wasn’t “terribly happy” about its “flick-book” tricksiness.

“I’ll do anything a producer asks me to, if I feel it’s honest. But what do you do when someone tells you at the first rehearsal that recitative is only ‘a hole in the drama’? That’s just wrong. Anyone can wow an audience – by bringing Fiordiligi on for her big aria accompanied by a pair of dogs and some massive bodybuilding hunks, for instance. But once the shock is over, is there anything left? Where are the shadows and nuances and laminations?”

Commitment to Mozart stopped him from walking out. Although he is now tiring of Cosi (“a masterpiece of course, but there’s no character development”), he still “adores” singing Don Giovanni, the Count in Figaro and Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, all of which he will return to next year.

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An extract from the Opera review; Classic Tales (In Video And Velvet) by Anthony Tommasini, New York Times Wednesday August 16 2000

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B07E6DA1E3FF935A2575BC0A9669C8B63

Monday night at the Small Festival Hall offered the controversial new production of ”Cosi fan tutte” by the director Hans Neuenfels, with sets and costumes by Reinhard von der Thannen. The staging is over the top and a mishmash of ideas, but at times intriguing.

The two pairs of confused and inconstant lovers at the center of this cynical comedy wear matching white jumpsuits, a device that makes the partner-swapping and games of deception all the more unsettling. There are unforgettable images, as in the garden scene, in which the deceiving lovers court one another amid wildly overgrown exotic flowers.

But Mr. Neuenfels must not trust the opera, for he cannot leave the music alone. Too many arias and ensembles are performed before self-consciously symbolic and often pointless background action from a roster of invented silent characters.

The worst such intrusion involves a video projected on a large screen during the scene in which the audience first meets the two sisters of the story as they sing in blissful innocence about their boyfriends. On screen a gorgeous young couple enact a modern-day version of the Adam-and-Eve tale, complete with an apple riddled with worms.

Standing arm in arm before the screen, the radiant soprano Karita Mattila as Fiordiligi and the dusky-toned mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova sang the duet incomparably. But it was hard not to fixate on this weird movie.

The entire cast was excellent: the lyric tenor Rainer Trost as Ferrando, the robust baritone Simon Keenlyside as Guglielmo, the stentorian bass Franz Hawlata as Don Alfonso, and the bright-voiced soprano Maria Bayo as Despina. The conductor Lothar Zagrosek’s gesticulating baton technique did not elicit the most consistently incisive playing from the Vienna Philharmonic, but the sound, shape and character of the music-making were wondrous.

The singers were not just vocally strong, but attractive, charismatic and good sports. Would that Mr. Neuenfels had simplified his conception and removed the extraneous clutter, which must have been terribly expensive. What he needed was something not known at the Salzburg Festival, a tough-guy boss, like Joseph Volpe at the Metropolitan Opera, to tell him no once in a while.

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