Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Cosi Fan Tutte / Gardiner Roocroft Gilfry English Baroque Soloists|
Actors: Amanda Roocroft, Rosa Mannion, Rodney Gilfry, Rainer Trost, Eirian James
Director: Peter Mumford
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Musicals & Performing Arts
Eirian James (as Despina) energizes this Cosi
R. Nicholson | 01/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"An enjoyable performance on DVD of Mozart's last opera in which he used Lorenzo da Ponte for the libretto.This is a 2-disc DVD set that stars Amanda Roocroft (Fiordiligi), Rosa Mannion (Dorabella), Rodney Gilfry (Guglielmo), Rainer Trost (Ferrando), Eirian James (Despina) and Claudio Nicolai (Don Alfonso).
John Eliot Gardiner conducts this work that is performed before a live audience at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
The sets are simply magnificent with multiple curtains that depict beautifully painted backdrop scenes. The floor is entirely made up on plaques of inlaid stone to resemble an outdoor courtyard: a very realistic touch. The costumes are lovely and are appropriate for the era they represent. Also the cameral angles, switching and film editing are excellent and have resulted in a finished work that is of superior quality.That main singers are young, vibrant and indeed sexy: someone you could really believe to be in love and they all have great voices. They are competent in their acting skills making good use of hand gestures and facial expressions.And yet despite all the above positives things that I've mentioned above, I felt, for some difficult to explain reason, the first half of Act I dragged significantly (thus 1/2 star lost). I sensed the audience also had the same opinion, as their applause during this phase was rather subdued. However, this lack of energy changed quickly once Eirian James, as the maid, Despina, came on stage. She had an energetic stage presence that seemed to infect her fellow actors: While the other actors and actresses seem to enjoy their roles, she obviously loved hers and this shone through from beginning to end. From this point on, the entire cast seemed more at ease and appeared to be enjoying themselves on stage. The last part of Act 1 and the remainder of the work was lively, funny and a joy to watch and hear. Certainly the audience was much more responsive and their applause more sincere and prolonged.Technically, the disc has subtitles in several languages, including English and Italian, BRAVO!. However on the negative side, there is no menu that allows you to go to a particular scene: you have to start at the beginning of an Act and continue to jump forward one scene at a time(another 1/2 star lost). This is annoying and difficult to understand with the advances in todays recording standards.All in all a wonderful presentation: the negatives that I've mentioned above pale in comparison to the overall positives of this delightful work. A Cosi that I could honestly recommend to be added to anyone's opera collection."
Excellent production with a bit of a twist
R. Nicholson | 05/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen Cosi fan tutte thrice in live performance. It was the first opera I ever saw and is still my favorite. This version ranks with the best live productions, and humbles my CD version (by Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic).First, the discs are technically very good with excellent sound quality - there are 3 audio tracks, one with PCM stereo, another with Dolby 5.1, and the third with DTS. The DTS is good but the recording level is significantly lower, requiring greater amplification to achieve the same volume. Overall the Dolby 5.1 track seems to be the best. Picture is excellent and sharp with bright colors. Recording equipment chain is all digital - this is not a rehash of an analog tape. Negatives: It would have been nice to have a printed libretto with English translation, but the Italian subtitles are available if you wish. A chapter select option is not available from the menu.The performers are all quite talented and evenly matched - very important in Cosi because of the symmetric nature of the music, particularly in the first act. (Gardiner emphasizes this symmetry by having each sister sing a few lines in the other's aria in Act I.) Both female leads appear to be in their mid 20s at the time of recording and display great vocal facility with some of the more difficult passages in the score. The male leads are also well matched with Guglielmo able to handle the higher passages well (a weakness in the Barenboim version). Despina and Don Alfonso are also well cast with very believable singers. Production values are high with attractive sets and costumes. The orchestra is tight and focused - the pace is faster than most versions I've seen or heard.Gardiner was both musical director and stage producer for this version, which makes it a particularly good version for those who want to focus on the music. There are a few noticeable brief pauses as the singers wait for the conductor and orchestra, but this does not detract from the overall performance. I've seen stage directors try to add visual jokes and props to Cosi for greater comedic effect, but Gardiner lets the comedy flow from the music and libretto which is quite pleasing. While there are stage noises, they never detract from the music and I believe that the audience adds to the ambience of the performance - singers in a studio or soundstage never seem to sound as good as a live performance. Something about the costumes, audience, and acting seems to add vivacity and veracity.While following the libretto religiously (including part of the finale which was omitted from the Barenboim version), Gardiner has a slightly different take on the ending. (POSSIBLE SPOILER) Every other version of Cosi I've seen has the original couples reunited at the end, their relationships seemingly none the worse for the somewhat cynical experiment which has been played out. Gardiner gently suggests that Ferrando and Fiordiligi perhaps have become more attached to each other than their original betrotheds, leaving one to wonder at the eventual outcome. Perhaps a Cosi for the modern age... Overall, bravissimo! A must have for fans of Mozart and Cosi fan tutte."
Z. Yang | Hockessin, DE USA | 02/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The title, Cos fan tutte, meaning "All women are the same", uttered by the men in the play, and the plot with two young women falling into the conspiracy of their fidelity being tested, are misogynistic to some extent, but the real gem is the music. It is a comedy in the face of "tragedy", where love, betrayal, happiness and cynicism are revealed by sublime music - extremely eloquent, plenty of beautiful ensembles.
John Eliot Gardiner's production for Thtre du Chtelet is brilliant in establishing a realistic, sunny Neapolitan atmosphere to match Mozart's heavenly music, which was brought out with such fineness by Gardiner. Whether a lush visual attraction is indispensable in fully embodying the music is perhaps a matter of taste. I've seen production that also worked out very well with much simpler sets and austere designs, where the focus on music was distinctive and the drama was revealed by wonderful singing and acting.
It's a great ensemble piece with each of the six characters sharing their big moments on stage, so a cast of six singers equally strong in singing and acting becomes essential, and for the lovers, their youthful appearance would be as important. The English Baroque Soloists mounted a good cast; everyone did an excellent job in singing and acting. Amanda Roocroft showed great range and agility in her singing as Fiordiligi. Rainer Trost's Ferrando was exquisitely and beautifully sung, demonstrating his graceful Mozartian style, although you'd expect more tension created in scenes like "Fra gli amplessi in pochi istanti", the fervent duet of Fiordiligi/Ferrando. Eirian James' Despina is simply wonderful. Her mezzo voice-type suited the character very well, and her singing was full of life, sometimes surprise - as she changed her voice for Despina-the-notary to a smooth baritone. In this production more emphases were made to the identical side of Fiordiligi and Dorabella, from the details like the exact same garments in Act I to the singers' timbre, the subtleties in their personalities were gradually differentiated by the nuances in their acting. As for their lovers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, I wish their Albanian disguise were given more Albanian touch in the style and more dramatically different from them as soldiers - something that would intensify the drama and the comedy as well.
The quality of the DVD, with clear sound and sharp image, has done full justice to this wonderful production. No doubt, it's a worthy collection for Mozart lovers or Cos fans."
The rare thing - a PERFECT video
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 05/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" has never been as ubiquitous in the operatic repertoire as Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, or Magic Flute, despite having perhaps the most beautiful score and the best libretto (by da Ponte). Ostensibly, the story is simple: two sisters (Fiordiligi and Dorabella) are engaged to two young men (Ferrando and Guglielmo). The men, egged on by a sinister Don Alfonso, decide to "test" their sweethearts' love by disguising themselves as soldiers and switching partners. The women do not pass this love-test, and thus the title of the opera: Cosi fan tutte (all women are like that). But this summary of the plot only scratches the tip of the iceburg that is Cosi fan tutte.
In the 19th century the opera was decried as wicked, because it dared put forth the idea of "free love" way before the 1960s. It stubbornly refused to be traditionally romantic. It's a comedy that becomes profoundly uncomfortable to watch, as the sunny frivolous, fake "romances" between the main characters turns into something entirely ambiguous and mysterious, something no one can explain, not even da Ponte or Mozart. The ending has no real sense of resolution, and thus is been the bane of stage directors. How does one end an opera that has no real ending? The moral and emotional ambiguity of Cosi fan tutte, however, makes it perhaps Mozart's richest and deepest work. I think the score is his most beautiful. The da Ponte libretto is by turns biting, funny, romantic, cynical, cruel, and humane. A performance that can express all the complexity of this work is rare, so that's why it's so special when it does happen, as it does here in this wonderful video.
John Eliot Gardiner is a conductor of the HIP movement, meaning he believes in using period-style instruments, tuning, and singing practices. The appogiaturas that mid-20th century German conductors so insistently stamped out are restored, as is vocal embellishments of the arias. The HIP movement was controversial when it first started; now most "unHIP" performances have incorporated some HIP practices, such as a the proper restoration of appogiaturas. (Although if one listens to the 1930s broadcasts and early recordings of Mozart one can hear the appogiaturas -- why they were so ruthlessly erased by mid-20th century conductors has always been a minor mystery to me. It mostly hinged on a few ambiguous letters Mozart wrote, that suggested he wanted his arias sung come scritto. Nowadays people acknowledge that those one or two letters were probably not meant to be taken literally.)
The production of Cosi fan tutte is proof that "traditional" does not equal stodgy. The cute (perhaps too cute) beginning has Don Alfonso (Claudio Nicolai), Guglielmo (Rodney Gilfry), and Ferrando (Rainer Trost) walking down the aisles of the Theatre du Chatalet and onstage. The men are in period-style costumes, and the stage is filled with white curtains. As the men end their discussion about the constancy of women, the curtains part and we are in a sunny, pretty Meditteranean garden, with a terra-cotta floor. Fiordiligi is playing with her clothes, suggesting her youth. The sets remain simple throughout the opera, but they always suggest a happy, sunny place, that contrasts more and more with the emotional complexity of the story as the opera progresses.
The main idea of Act 1 is to emphasize the immaturity of the lovers. The sisters are barely distinguishable from each other, both in costumes, voice, and personality. Gardiner explains in his notes that although it's been traditional to cast Fiordiligi as a soprano and Dorabella as a mezzo to contrast and differentiate the sisters, the original Fiordiligi and Dorabella were singers very similar in range and type. Besides, the main concept in this production is that Fiordiligi, Dorabella, Guglielmo, and Ferrando are all very immature and juvenile, with very little sense of self. (Reminiscent of the lovers in Midsummer's Night Dream.) They rhapsodize about love without any idea of what love actually is. Throughout the performance, things seem light and happy and giggly, and it only gradually creeps up on you that this is no longer funny, that the emotions are real, and that the silly, indistinguishable foursome have become complex individuals, with emotions that can't be erased by Don Alfonso and Despina's almost cruel prattle at the opera's conclusion.
Gardiner assembled a young, good-looking cast, that fit into the concept of the immaturity and inexperience of the lovers. Don Alfonso is an elderly gentleman, and the fact that he's cruelly meddling in the emotional and sexual lives of these young people suggests his need to compensate for his own lack of emotional depth. Amanda Roocroft and Rosa Mannion have voices that are lighter than usual for this opera. Roocroft can't quite negotiate the fiendishly difficult "Come scoglio" and "Per pieta" as well as some Fiordiligis I've heard (most recently Dorothea Roschmann in the excellent, if very different video from Berlin), but I love her light, bright, youthful sounding voice, as well as Rosa Mannion's. If you have an allergy to fast vibratos than you might take issue with Roocroft and Mannion, but I don't. The men (Rodney Gilfry and Rainer Trost) are more well-known than the women, and they sing marvellously. "Il core vi dono" and "Fra gli amplessi" (the two sublime duets between the "switched" lovers in the second act) have the requisite beauty and poignancy. The many ensemble pieces demonstrate how well all the performers are able to blend their voices into a harmonious, beautiful whole. Despina (Eirian James) is an energetic and spunky Despina, and she suggests that her cruel shenanigans are borne out of a servant's resentment. Like Don Alfonso, she always remains slightly detatched from the lovers, as if she's watching a baseball game.
At the end of the opera, Mozart's happy C-major chord plays, and the characters are all smiling, except Fiordiligi is still holding onto Ferrando's hand, and Dorabella and Guglielmo are holding hands as well. Finally Fiordiligi holds hands with Guglielmo, and the lovers are all lined up, holding hands. They're supposed to go back to their original lovers, but they can't break the bonds that they formed with their "fake" lovers either. All of them are smiling. What are they smiling about? Their newfound love? Or relief that the game is over? A perfectly ambiguous ending to this opera."