Così fan tutte in Toulouse

01/07/2011

W. A. Mozart, Così fan tutte: Soloists, Orchestre National du Capitole, Choeur du Capitole. Conductor: Attilio Cremonesi. Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse. 26.06.2011 (JMI)

Production: Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing

Direction: Pierre Constant
Sets: Roberto Platé
Costumes: Jacques Schmidt and Emmanuel Peduzzi
Lighting: Jacques Rouveyrollis.

Cast:

Fiordiligi: Marie-Adeline Henry
Dorabella: Roxana Constantinescu
Ferrando: Saimir Pirgu
Guglielmo: Alex Esposito
Don Alfonso: Bruno Taddia
Despina: Ailish Tynan.

Photo courtesy Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, © Patrice Nin

The opera season in Toulouse comes to an end with a performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which I have always found the most difficult to perform successfully, not just for dramatic but also musical and specifically its vocal aspects. An outstanding conductor is always needed to give life to this magnificent opera and the vocal difficulties are enormous, mainly on the part of Fiordiligi. The Toulouse performance of Così met these usual problems without necessarily overcoming them.

Director’s Pierre Constant’s production premiered in 1995 in Lille and has since been seen in several other French theaters. When the Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing commissioned a Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy from Pierre Constant, it revived the original production from Lille with its sets – arranged as a semicircle around stage – used for the entire cycle.

Pierre Constant production is nice, attractive, traditional. The opera begins not in a cafe, but in a Turkish bath where we meet the three male friends. The move to the house of the young girls from Ferrara takes place efficiently, by just adding a large door at the back of the stage with blinds, revealing a beach outside. The costumes are attractive, particularly for the two young ladies. Stage direction is good, giving a remarkable life to the stage.
The musical direction was entrusted to Italian Attilio Cremonesi, highly specialized in baroque repertoire, a veteran assistant to René Jacobs. I found his performance unconvincing. Attilio Cremonesi was effective, he obviously knew the score inside out, and he had good control of stage and pit. But he fell short of conveying the joy and liveliness that this opera requires. The version he offered was the most traditional one, eliminating the most difficult Ferrando’s aria “Ah, lo veggio,” (although the program said otherwise) and replacing the complicated Guglielmo’s aria “Rivolgete a lui sguardo” for the more traditional and easier “Non siate ritrosi.” The orchestra was good, but not up to the quality it has shown on a few opportunities in the past.

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W.A.Mozart, Così fan tutte,
R.Jacobs / Concerto Kön, /
V.Gens, W.Güra, B.Fink, M.Boone, P.Spagnoli, G.Oddone
Harmonia Mundi

Fiordiligi, as I said above, is a most difficult character to cast. It lies mostly in the middle range, but it has to climb to a high C, and on the other ends it throws in some low notes that would be difficult even for a mezzo soprano. Add to this the need for supreme agility spiced up with some very difficult leaps across the scale. I have rarely attended a performance of Così, where Fiordiligi lived up to the vocal demands written by Mozart. The young French soprano Marie-Adeline Henry was an attractive and remarkable performer on stage, but her voice seems to me better suited to Susanna, Zerlina or Despina. “Come Scoglio” was a big problem for her, with a shrill top register, and some artificial low notes. She was better in “Per Pieta”, although the basic problems were always present. In a different repertoire she should be an interesting singer.

Roxana Constantinescu’s stage presence was well suited for Dorabella, but the quality of her mezzo soprano is just not enough for Mozart.

The best singing came from the couple of Albanians, Saimir Pirgu (actually an Albanian) and Alex Esposito. Pirgu has improved and matured considerably and is by now an excellent Ferrando, singing with elegance and beauty, particularly “Un aura amorosa”. Alex Esposito is an excellent singing actor with a voice well suited to Guglielmo.

The third couple, formed by Don Alfonso and Despina, was the weakest link of the whole cast. Ailish Tynan and Bruno Taddia are good actors, but that’s all. He offers a small and a not attractive voice, while her timbre is unattractive, besides singing incomprehensible Italian.

Jose M. Irurzun

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