A perfect Cosi fan tutte

If I could get away with it I would write a one-word review of the OPUS ARTE DVD of the 2010 Royal Opera production of Cosi fan tutte. That imperfect one-word review would be Perfect!

But please indulge me as I rave in more than just one word about what might be the most perfectly realized staging of Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s most seriously cynical comedy.

Director Jonathan Miller is to my mind a genius who revealed to so very many of us throughout his career many treasurable insights into some of the essential works for the lyric stage.

Here he crafted in this no-nonsense Cosi a perfectly balanced mix of unflinching realism and theatrical artifice. In this production the late English director wears in addition to his regular hat of stage director those of set designer, costume designer, and lighting designer, crafting a unified vision in which all of the action happens in an indoor setting. Here there are no doors, no windows, just a couple of openings for entrances and exits. Few props are provided, lighting changes are subtle, the costumes are more like contemporary dress: a business suit and top coat for Don Alfonso, lounge wear for the sisters. Despina wears a smart business suit not a maid’s outfit. Guglielmo and Ferrando go from Army fatigues to hippie get ups. There are few pieces of furniture and many of them are covered up in dust cloths.  

Most gratifying is Miller’s work with the actors: an international cast in which each of the six principals sings in flawless Italian with a clear understanding of what is being sung by them and to them.

Sir Thomas Allen is elegantly dapper and faultless as Don Alfonso, and in his sixties he sings very well indeed. Rebecca Evans is earthy and pretty as Despina, and she sings gloriously. The four lovers are sheer perfection (there goes that word again!): Pavol Breslik a fine lyric tenor, Stéphane Degout as good an actor and singer in the role of Guglielmo as I have ever encountered. The sisters are lovely: Jurgyta Adamonyté a terrific singing actress and very funny as Dorabella, and Maria Bengtsson a vocally elegant and dramatically vulnerable Fiordiligi.

Thomas Hengelbrock leads the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House with a perfect command of the score, allowing the singers all the room in the world  to make both music and text come alive from start to finish.

Indeed, perfect!

Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS