Madrid Così: That’s how Haneke Does It

March 8, 2013

SpainSpain W.A.Mozart, Così Fan Tutte: Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Real, Sylvain Cambreling (conductor), Madrid Teatro Real, 4.3.2013 (JMI)

New production Teatro Real in coproduction with Brussels’s La Monnaie

Direction: Michael Haneke
Sets: Christoph Kanter
Costumes: Moidele Bickel
Lighting: Urs Schönebaum

Fiordiligi: Annet Fritsch
Dorabella: Paola Gardina
Ferrando: Juan Francisco Gatell
Guglielmo: Andreas Wolf
Despina: Kerstin Avemo
Don Alfonso: William Shimell

Among the changes Gerard Mortier brought to Teatro Real is his focus on stage productions and the prominence given to media coverage of his shows. If an opera house produces something that the international press did not cover, it apparently did not happen. By that standard, Gerard Mortier has made things happen, since his arrival in Madrid. Certainly the premiere of the The Perfect American had plenty world-wide coverage (see S&H review here), ditto this production: Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke’s Così fan tutte. Obviously, media coverage is very important again and in this sense the Teatro Real has come a long way, but whether this coverage-chasing policy works in favor of the opera-goer is a different matter. In this case, fortunately it did, with Teatro Real almost completely sold out and the audience having had an audibly good time.

And indeed, Haneke’s Così fan tutte is a truly outstanding achievement. The staging is elegant and attractive: a large modern lounge with a window at the back, peopled with attractive costumes. But what impress me most are Mr. Haneke’s stage direction and the rarified, outstanding performances he commends. His Don Alfonso (William Shimell) is a kind of cynical Mephistopheles, who pulls the strings with impressive coolness (aided by his ‘wife’ Despina) placing both the young couples in more than embarrassing situations, greatly aided by alcohol—which plays a major role in this production.

available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart, Così fan tutte,
R.Jacobs / Concerto Köln / Bernada Fink, Veronique Gens et al.
Harmonia Mundi

Haneke gives prominence to the recitatives, which become an essential part of the opera, though on occasion the silences last too long and interrupt the flow of the music. Putting a stage production is at the core of a performance can be quite questionable and there are interpretative inconsistencies to content with, but I suppose you can always blame the booze!

Musically, things were not at the same level. Sylvain Cambreling seemed to be infected by Haneke penchant for slowness, or perhaps he simply gave in to the concept, but his reading was in any case tedious—especially in the first act. More inspirational conducting was needed as even the orchestra was not at its usual excellent level.

Vocally, the cast was rather modest. The six characters were extremely well suited to the dramatic demands and they all shone as actors… particularly Shimell’s Don Alfonso and Annet Fritsch’s Fiordiligi. Incidentally, the German soprano was also best voice on stage, leaving a very positive impression with very expressive singing in addition to all her other dramatic and superficial assets. Coming, as she does, with the whole package, she can look forward to an impressive career.

Italian mezzo soprano Paola Gardina was a good interpreter of Dorabella. Her voice is a little light, but she is a good singer and was a good complement to her on-stage sister. Juan Francisco Gatell is a very promising singer and he was a fine Ferrando even though he had some difficulties in both of his arias. Lyric baritone Andreas Wolf acted his Guglielmo better than he sang him: very much in line with the qualities that no doubt took precedence when choosing this cast. Despina is a rôle Kerstin Avemo is well suited to, thanks to her youth and stage skills. Vocally, she is a pure soubrette, with a weak middle register, no low notes and very poor top notes. William Shimell’s presence was almost obligatory in this performance, considering his collaborations in movies with Michael Haneke. I have already spoken of the actor. As a singer, he has a dry voice that sometimes takes refuge in pure parlando, and his high notes are pallid.

José Mª Irurzun

Print Friendly


Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! 8th Schloss Laudon Kammermusikfestival to Illuminate More Corners of the 20th Century Quartet Repertoire (January 20, 2015) __________________________________
  •  NEW! Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season 2014/15 Continues: Romance And Revolution: Andrea Chénier (January 17, 2015) __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview: Resolution! Dance Showcase at the Place, London (January 11, 2015) __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview: London International Mime Festival January 2015 (January 8, 2015) __________________________________
  • NEW! ‘Bayreuth in Buenos Aires’ And More in Interesting Teatro Colón 2015 Season (January 4, 2015) __________________________________
  • Buenos Aires Independents’ 2015 Season – Some Gems To Come (November 25, 2014) __________________________________
  • Artists from China, Estonia and Holland head for 2015 Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music (November 19, 2014) __________________________________
  • Lucerne Festival Preview 2015 (November 6, 2014) __________________________________
  • Variety and Distinction in Vancouver’s 2014-2015 Concert Season (August 10, 2014) __________________________________
  • Cincinnati Offers Sparkling 2014-2015 Season (August 7, 2014) __________________________________
  • Exciting and Varied Programme Announced for Birmingham International Concert Series 2014/15 (May 19, 2014) __________________________________
  • Reviews by Reviewer

    Monthly Archive

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! Beat Furrer and Grigory Sokolov Named Latest Honorary Members of the Wiener Konzerthaus Society (December 18, 2014) __________________________________
  • Dame Fanny Waterman to Step Down from Leeds International Piano Competition after 2015 Competition (December 16, 2014) __________________________________
  • Nine First-Time Winners Revealed at the British Composer Awards 2014 (December 11, 2014) __________________________________
  • Dancers in the Making. John O’Dwyer Visits the English National Ballet School (December 10, 2014) __________________________________
  • Arnaldo Cohen in Conversation with Geoffrey Newman (December 9, 2014) __________________________________
  • National Centre for Early Music Announces Its Young Composers Award 2015 (November 2, 2014) __________________________________
  • Concertmaster Dale Barltrop in Conversation with Geoffrey Newman (October 22, 2014) __________________________________
  • Remembering Lyndon Jenkins (1938-2014): A Leading Player on the Concert Scene (September 26, 2014) __________________________________
  • Essex Based Opera Group Brings Opera to Saffron Hall In Walden for the First Time (August 26, 2014) __________________________________
  • Top 10 Reviewed Cities