Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Cosi fan Tutte|
Actors: Sophie Koch, Ana Maria Martinez, Stephane Degout, Shawn Mathey, Thomas Allen
Director: Karl-Ernst Herrmann
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
A "Cosi" For Plato's Cave
Stanley H. Nemeth | Garden Grove, CA United States | 02/17/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's increasingly amusing to see various commentators at this site vying to identify the Mozart production from M22 at Salzburg which best deserves the title of the stupidest and ugliest. My nominee for the prize is Ursel Herrmann's and Karl-Ernst Herrmann's "Cosi Fan Tutte." (I don't say Mozart's and Da Ponte's, as the Herrmanns have in this instance made the work singularly their own, and should therefore receive full credit for what they have wrought.)
In an interview accompanying the performance, while Mr. Herrmann largely sits meekly by, Ms. Herrmann enlightens us as to the rationale behind this ill-conceived eyesore of a production. She is a wholehearted supporter of the conventional idea that classics are not of a time, but instead "universal." What this means to her, unfortunately however, is that as stage director she need not bother to set "Cosi" in any specific locale or period at all. She further acknowledges that she'd never before been especially drawn to this masterpiece because it has women too easily deceived. What this encourages her to do is seriously defy the libretto and have the aforesaid women aware of the men's wager which gets the action started. What an original, necessary insight for our time! Da Ponte and Mozart constructed things differently, but what did they know?
To sum up, because we have characters still singing in Italian and reflecting 18th century social class but dressed at the same time in much uglier, more modern costumes and treading around among the absurdly minimalist scenery that has become a Eurotrash cliche, this production, far from being universal, is simply and mindlessly not taking place anywhere. Its visually unbecoming oddness calls more attention to itself than any other feature. Further, and equally far from "universal," this production to the extent it approaches ideas, fosters Ms. Herrmann's bumper-sticker-deep, sadly dated "feminism" along with her unearned cynicism about human "feelings." The most suitable locale for such a procession of stale images and ideas that complacently thinks itself "cutting edge" would be, I submit, the wall of Plato's cave, with the audience the bound prisoners and the Herrmanns the manipulators of the pantomimes projected on it. "Universal," in short, to the Herrmanns means apparently their directorial freedom to engage in the unwitting promotion of contemporary cliches in sets, costumes, and vision.
The Herrmanns agree further that fussy stage business is necessary at every moment. If clashing swords interfere with chords in the overture, for example, it makes no difference. Who after all still goes to the opera to hear the music? The audience was probably assumed by the Herrmanns to be made up instead of hyperactive types or people forced in the workplace to "multitask." If its members had to hear only miraculous music, glorious singing, and satiric wit, they might get bored.
Not only must the audience be bombarded, then, with excessive stage "business," but even some of the orchestra members have to be irrationally brought into the action, for fear that they too, by just playing their instruments, might begin to feel hopelessly non-interactive.
The saving graces of this production are in the areas where the Herrmanns would have had the most trouble interfering. The music is beautifully played and finely conducted. Despite the seeming effort to dress and make up the characters in as unattractive a manner as possible, everyone is in good to fine voice. These last features alone are what have garnered the stars in this review."
A completely different take on Cosė
Lorian D. Dunlop | California | 02/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Admittedly, the unconventional staging of this Così performance leaves some loose ends, but I find the concept of including the women in the "joke" from the start has a certain appeal which is not completely outside the suggestions of the original libretto. For instance, the very first recitative sung by the women begins with Fiordiligi stating that she has a notion that she'd like to play a joke on Guglielmo today ("Mi par, che stamattina rolontieri farei la pazzarella: ho un certo foco, un certo pizzi cor entro le vene quando Guglielmo viene se sapessi, che burla gli vo far.").
The disadvantage to the approach is that things do get a bit muddled in the second act, as Herrmann attempts to reconcile her view of the plot with Fiordiligi's angst-ridden attempt to disguise herself and leave town to join Guglielmo at the battlefront, and to clearly portray the double-revelation of the betrayal by both the male and female lovers after the "wedding ceremony" has taken place. While to most modern viewers it should be quite obvious that both the men and the women fiancées have betrayed one another's faith, simply by the fact that Guglielmo has successfully seduced Dorabella, while Ferrando has likewise seduced Fiordiligi (whether the consummation of that seduction is delicately implied, as in many productions, or stated more blatantly, as in this one), still, most productions of this work leave the women as the betrayers and the men as the betrayed.
Herrmann's attempt to rectify this injustice requires that many of the accusations made by the women against the men come by way of angry glances and physical rebuffs, rather than spoken words, although a careful viewing reveals that the message is successfully conveyed (if perhaps a little too subtly for some viewers' tastes). The quartet, "Idol mio se questo è vero," in the final scene allows for a fairly ample amount of contrition from the men as well as the women before the entire cast takes up the final theme, "Fortunato l'uom, che prende ogni cosa pel buon verso," praising the happiness obtained from taking life as it comes with good cheer.
Da Ponte's story itself, though often treated as a buffoonish lark, displays a rather disturbingly dark view of human nature, fraught with emotional conflict, seduction, betrayal, love, hate, misogyny, and an almost sociopathic readiness to trifle with the emotions and happiness of others. Herrmann does succeed in drawing forth a great deal of that confusion, darkness and incipient violence in this stunning retake, going well beyond the light frolic of many other performances and leaving the audience with a sense of unease and a thought-provoking aura of uncertainty. There are no "pat answers" in this performance, but a good deal of entertainment, some lovely musical performances, and quite a brilliant shift in perspective.
GREAT CONDUCTOR, ORCHESTRA AND SINGING, BUT NO MORE
Jesse Knight | woburn ma usa | 07/24/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is yet another production dragged down by a dubious staging. Honeck conducts with consistent energy that is not too agressive, yet never sags into a fatal legato which would stall the foward motion of the music. His instrumental balances further the goal of keeping the music moving. These are not easy balances to obtain and many famous conductors including Gardiner and Boehm fell into a boring legato conducting Cosi, in my opinion.
Martinez and Koch as Fiordiligi and Dorabella have the power to sustain, yet lack personality. I don't feel that the men do any better in developing characters. Helen Donath overdoes the part of Despina.
The "no place in a no time" staging may be to blame for this, but I get the sense that the singers are each doing their own thing. There is no sense of ensemble, which may be the single biggest common problem with some M22 productions.
La Finta Semplice has great ensemble despite an empty stage and white featureless costumes. I suspect that the very generous spirit that Malin Hartelius always brings to the stage was very contagious in that production. She and Josef Wagner were allowed to invent their own sign language for instance. Schloemer, the director, encouraged his singers to improvise on a stage that was devoid of any predetermined concept. A very dangerous approach that worked."
Decent singing, lackluster performance
Operafanatic | Northern Virginia | 06/11/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit that I'm mostly writing this review just to say: why doesn't someone tell Sophie Koch that it's not necessary to open one's mouth past the point of dislocation to sing well? She's a fairly attractive woman, but as soon as she started singing her "ahs" and "ohs" like a snake consuming a watermelon, I was completely turned off to her artistry...her mouth was all I could focus on, with my jaw dropped in disbelief!!
Other than that, the singing is actually quite fine. The stage direction, costumes, and sets were, on the other hand, pretty horrible. None of the costumes flattered the performers (who are all in good shape), some of the stage direction made them look ridiculous (and forced them to screw up all their courage to try to motivate some of the ridiculous actions they were called to execute), and the set was completely uninteresting and uninspired.
And I have NO IDEA why they would ask a 67 year-old Helen Dorath to sing Despina! She was almost as laughable as the ancient Agnes Baltsa performing the same role...but she sang much better. (Baltsa sounded alright in her upper range, but seemed to have to shout everything in her chest voice and passaggio.)
To sum up: I would avoid this production, as there are MANY other versions available on DVD with both fine singing and great sets/costumes/staging."