Germany Mozart, Così fan tutte: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Bayerische Staatsoper / Vladimir Jurowski (conductor). Nationaltheater, Munich, 26.10.2022. (ALL)
Director – Benedict Andrews
Costumes – Victoria Behr
Settings – Magda Willi
Lightning – Mark Van Denesse
Dramaturgy – Katja Leclerc
Chorus director – Kamila Akhmedjanova
Fiordiligi – Louise Alder
Dorabella – Avery Amereau
Despina – Sandrine Piau
Guglielmo – Konstantin Krimmel
Ferrando – Sebastian Kohlhepp
Don Alfonso – Christian Gerhaher
Così fan tutte is Mozart’s most difficult to stage: half comedy, half tragedy and above all a very misogynistic story. The challenge of any production is to know how to do justice to all dimensions of the work without falling into easy mawkishness or vulgarity.
From this point of view, director Benedict Andrews clearly set the tone at the beginning with neon lights announcing La scuola degli amanti going from a bright white to a slightly dirty yellow color. It is the same color as in the room where we see Don Alfonso, in a leather mask, giving some change to a maid who is getting dressed. The room contains a dirty mattress and a doll castle in Disney-like colors. In a brilliant first few minutes, the tone is set. These objects will return under different forms and shapes without ever finding harmony. Nobody will come out of this bad joke unscathed. Suffering is a good teacher, says the proverb…
This intelligent production was supported by convincing young singer-actors. Some comedic elements were very successful and smart but there were also a few flaws. We could have done without some tasteless and easy effects that do not really add anything. The work was given with all recitatives and all arias, so this Così lasted a good four hours, including the intermission, and that is too long. Two years ago, the Salzburg Festival presented a compact version of two and a half hours without an intermission, selected by the duo Joanna Mallwitz and Christof Loy. It was done to meet pandemic restrictions, but the result was very convincing and profound.
The two couples were performed by young singers of great talent. Louise Alder (Fiordiligi) has very beautiful high notes (and has announced that she is expecting a happy event, congratulations!). Next to her, Avery Amereau (Dorabella) displayed superb phrasing and a splendid velvet tone. The men took a while to make their marks, which happens on opening nights, and Konstantin Krimmel (Guglielmo) having had Covid during the rehearsals did not help, but – together with Sebastian Kohlhepp’s Ferrando – he gained ease during the second act. Sandrine Piau was a light and confident Despina. Christian Gerhaher is a great singer – as we know – but produced the odd surprisingly intrusive sforzando at times.
Vladimir Jurowski took inspiration from baroque practice, including, natural horns and absence of vibrato in the strings The pit was slightly raised to ensure that the musicians could be heard in a hall made for Wagner and Richard Strauss. There were some very beautiful moments, though some tempi were a bit jerky and above all, a certain Mozartian singing line was missing. Conductors such as René Jacobs have shown that it is possible to make Mozart sound almost baroque while preserving his theatricality and flow, which Jurowski, despite his talent, did not achieve.