An Imaginative but Ultimately Muddled Cosi

Photo (c) Komische Oper

GermanyGermany  Mozart: Così Fan Tutte, Komische Oper Orchestra, Uwe Sandner (conductor), Komische Oper Berlin, 7.5.2015 (JMI)

Fiordiligi: Brigitte Geller
Dorabella: Maria Markina (singing)
Anna Borchers (acting)
Ferrando: Adrian Strooper
Guglielmo: Lars Möller
Despina: Olga Pasichnyk
Don Alfonso: Stefan Sevenich


Production: Berlin Komische Oper
Direction: Alvis Hermanis
Sets: Uta Gruber-Bellehr
Costumes: Eva Dessecker
Lighting: Diego Leetz

Ever since Barrie Kosky took over the direction of Berlin’s Komische Oper, I’ve tried to include their theatre in my visits to the city. You don’t find big-name singers or conductors here, but you do see original and attractive stage productions. This time I could only attend Così Fan Tutte; my biggest interest was in the new production of Moses und Aron, but the dates did not work out.

The policy in this house is to perform all operas in German, which I find truly outdated. There are surtitles in all opera houses, and in this particular theatre you have the translation at your own seat and can choose among different languages. Yesterday they got into trouble with the German version when the interpreter of Dorabella felt ill. She could only act, and a different mezzo soprano with a score sang the part from the side of the stage. This meant that the opera was actually sung in two languages, as the new Dorabella used Italian. There were times that duets and quartets were done in both languages at the same time, and on more than one occasion the singers sang just in Italian, even though Dorabella was not part of it. It was a real mess and could have been resolved more smoothly.

This production of Cosi Fan Tutte is by Latvian director Alvis Hermanis and premiered two years ago. His work is clever in the first scene, which places the action in a restoration workshop and features projections of famous Rococo paintings. Don Alfonso is the head, the two couples in love work as restorers, and Despina is the cleaning woman. Unfortunately, the appeal of the staging declines as the opera goes forward, and there are significant inconsistencies with the libretto (despite some intentional changes in the German translation). The art restorers are in modern costumes, but Ferrando and Guglielmo return garbed in 18th-century outfits and wigs, not as “Albanians” or whatever they are supposed to be. In the second act, Dorabella and Fiordiligi are now dressed in attractive 18th-century gowns. The biggest incongruity of the production is to make the doctor at the end of Act I and the notary in the second act not Despina mascherata (Da Ponte dixit), but purely and simply an undisguised Despina, the cleaning woman. The stage direction is good, but what is missing is the credibility of the farce.

Uwe Sandner’s conducting was effective although it lacked the necessary Mozartean lightness. The orchestra did well, but I cannot speak of the chorus because there was none on stage. Their interventions (“Bella vita militar”) were pre-recorded and broadcast.

Fiordiligi was played by soprano Brigitte Geller, a well-known regular in this opera company. Her performance was acceptable, although she is not the soprano required for Fiordiligi and fell short on the lower notes in both her arias.

Mezzo soprano Anna Borchers could only act in the part of Dorabella. The character was sung by Maria Markina whose voice is too light for the role and rather acid. However, she saved the show.

Adrian Strooper was well-suited to Ferrando. He is a tenorino with an attractive voice, but he had problems at times, especially in “Tradito, Schernito.” Lars Möller was good as Guglielmo, with a more sonorous voice.

Stefan Sevenich was fine as Don Alfonso, remarkable on stage and always singing with intention although somewhat whitish at the top. Finally, Despina was Ukrainian soprano Olga Pasichnyk, very comfortable on stage and also an expressive singer, although the production makes her character too exaggerated. I am not sure whether she is really pregnant or this was part of the staging.


José M. Irurzun






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