"Of the three Mozart/da Ponte collaborations, Cosi fan tutte is perhaps the most puzzling. 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). Is Mozart being cynical? Misogynistic, even? It's hard to say. Thus the greatness of Cosi fan tutte: like many masterpieces, it can be interpreted on many levels. Director Doris Dorrie seems to view the sisters' faithlessness as an awakening of sexual and personal freedom. In this production, set in the 1960s, everyone is rather "square" in the beginning (three-piece suits for the men, neat housedresses for the women). When the men come back in disguise to switch partners, the women kick off their housedresses and become 1960s flower children. Fiordiligi and Dorabella have decided to tune in, turn on, and drop out. This concept works remarkably well, and balances the comedy and drama of the work. Better yet, the vocal performances are spectacular. Best of all is Dorothea Roschmann's Fiordiligi. In her arias she emphasizes the character's mixture of devil-may-care attitude and romantic longing. Her Fiordiligi is never silly. Roschmann's voice reminds one of a young Mirella Freni: round, dark, and incredibly warm. Her "Come scoglio" is one of the best-sung renditions I've ever heard, although Roschmann's trill is smudged. Another standout is Katharina Kammerloher's Dorabella. She's funnier, zanier, and perhaps more fickle than her sister. Daniela Bruera is a cynical, unusually malicious Despina. After all, there's really nothing nice about what she and Don Alfonso do to the couples. The men (Werner Gura as Ferrando and Hanno Muller-Brachmann) are not quite at the women's level vocally. It doesn't help that their parts are slightly abridged. However, Gura and Roschmann are truly heartrending in their second act duet "Fra gli amplessi," which must be the most beautiful, sincere love music Mozart ever wrote. Roman Trekel gives a standout performance as Don Alfonso. He's wonderfully scheming and cynical. It's Dorrie's concept that Alfonso remains detatched at all times from the action -- like a puppetmaster manipulating his players. The dvd for some reason is split into two dvd's although it could have easily fit on one disc -- at least we aren't charged double the price. This "Cosi" is not for viewers who only like "traditional" productions. It's definitely a "concept" production. But IMO, the concept works extremely well, and the cast gives an excellent performance. Dorrie decides to have an ambiguous ending. It is not certain how well the now-disillusioned couples will fare. And somehow, I think that's true to the spirit of Mozart and da Ponte."
What an amazing take on a classic masterpiece!
gellio | San Francisco, CA | 09/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is my absolute favorite of the Cosi DVDs I've seen (including Gardiner's). Roschmann is a truly enthralling Fiordiligi and I absolutely love the characterization that Kammerloher gives Dorabella. The other principals are all fantastic as well. What I think gives this performance the edge is the constumes, sets, and staging. It's a wonderful, colorful performance, packed with so much action....there's no moment where a performer is just standing still onstage belting out a number - there's an endless stream of action. The ACT I Sextet, for example, is absolutely hysterical because of all the action involving Dorabella's and Fiordiligi's reaction to Ferrando and Guglielmo in disguise. It's like that throughout the performance. While listening to the fantastic music (and performances) we have so much to look at (and laugh at) in this performance. It highlights the comedy (and drama) in this great work more than any other performance I've seen (on stage or on DVD). I just went to the San Francisco Opera's "Cosi fan tutte" premiere this past weekend....and despite the great performance (Flicka was awesome), I was left wishing this version had been staged. It is truly wonderful. I cannot recommend it enough."
A great first Cosi for young people
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 04/16/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Most attempts to update operas that were originially set in previous eras fall short, but this production's flower child update to the 1960's works, mostly because the producers made the quality of the performers a top priority, starting with the beautiful lyric soprano voice of Dorothea Roschmann as Fiordiligi. To the high quality of the singing throughout, add hippies romping around in colorful and creative get-ups and the players climbing out of the orchestra pit as if it's a swimming pool, and this production becomes an ideal way to introduce younger people to some of the most heavenly music in all of opera."
Charming and brilliant
K. Knapp | 07/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is, almost certainly, my favorite opera ever written, and I can't imagine it being a better treatment than it is given by Doris Dorrie in this beautiful production. The singers are uniformly excellent -- Roschmann is the clear standout, and her "Come scoglio" is probably the best I've heard. Kammerloher's deadpan delivery is the scene-stealer, though, and it makes the duet "Il core vi dono" surprisingly touching when she finally gives in and shows some warmth. You could do a lot worse than Werner Gura for sheer beauty, particularly in "Un'aura amorosa," maybe the most deceptively difficult Mozart tenor aria. Daniela Bruera and Hanno Muller-Brachmann are both lively and charismatic. Roman Trekel's stiffness and strangely effortful singing can be a bit of a distraction, but he's always devilishly engaged. My only major complaint with this DVD are Barenboim's choice of tempi; almost every one is conspicuously too slow, making him seem strangely out of step with the production, which chugs along quite nicely. Dorrie, who apparently was an opera ignoramous before this production, gives us a completely relatable and perfectly adapted take on a classic -- as someone who works in the opera industry, it's such a relief to see a fresh mind at work among so much jaded bitterness."
A real gem
R. G. W. Brown | Tustin, CA, USA | 07/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of the various versions on DVD - - this one is the most compelling - - it is simply delightful. A modern staging - yes, but such superb performances from all the participants. You will treasure this."