Ponnelle's final filmed opera is beautiful, bittersweet Moza
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 05/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jean-Pierre Ponnelle specialized in filming opera: lip synching the singing while recording recitatives live. He intended to film all of Mozart's operas but passed away (in August 1988), scant weeks after the completion of this film. He filmed only 4 Mozart operas: le Nozze di Figaro, la Clemenza di Tito, Mitridate and Cosi. It is a pity we will never see his Don Giovanni or Magic Flute. Ponnelle brought keen insight and subtle beauty to his filmed operas: never more evident than here, in his vision of a contest of mistaken identity and love held in a beautiful seaside Palladian villa.
Mozart composed Cosi fan Tutte in a few weeks in autumn 1789 on commission from Emperor Joseph II of Austria (famous for this critique of Mozart: "Too beautiful for our ears and monstrous many notes, my dear Mozart". Mozart supposedly replied "Exactly as many as necessary, your majesty"). 1789 was a hard year for the composer. He composed few other works that year as he sank into despondency over his financial situation. Despite his emotional turmoil, Cosi is one of his loveliest scores with 12 gorgeous arias balanced by 18 ensembles of heart melting beauty. All this is framed by an indefinable sadness; creating that trademark Mozartian emotional ambiguity, hallmark of his greatness. When done right, Cosi fan Tutte ("They all do it" or "They are all like that". It loses in translation.) just might be the most perfect opera buffa Mozart ever composed. The opera premiered in Vienna on 26 January 1790. It was immediately controversial for its subject matter. Beethoven hated it, considering it immoral and idiotic. That kind of criticism didn't help its commercial prospects in the 19th Century.
Ponnelle manages to get it right, with the proper combination of visual and vocal beauty. Because the singers lip synch their arias, they can concentrate on their acting which is good enough for comic opera. It was filmed in Munich 1-15 June 1988 with the sound recording made 25 February-12 March 1988 in Vienna. Edita Gruberova and Delores Ziegler are the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella. They are very similar in appearance: making the story that much more believable. They even sound somewhat alike. I had some difficulty telling them apart, which made the opera more fun for me. I thought they were fine in the film. Ferruccio Furlanetto is Guglielmo. He is a well known Leporello, so Mozart wears well on him. Luis Lima is Ferrando. They are both energetic, if not especially romantic, lovers. Their singing is fine with Furlanetto the better comedian. Don Alfonso is sung by the distinguished looking Paolo Montarsolo. He looks the part, though his voice does get a little tattered now and again. Teresa Stratas is Despina and she is funny and effervescent when it is called for. Mozart indicates that she is to sing "dryly" in her comic scenes in disguise. Some may find her voice grating when she goes over-the-top. Her normal singing voice is limpid and warm. Quite a contrast. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, drawing a good, solid performance from them. I thought they lacked a little of their usual Mozartian sparkle. Perhaps this was an artifact of recording for a film.
The picture format is NTSC with a 4:3 aspect ratio shot full-screen. The picture appears digitally remastered for this apparent DGG DVD re-release. It looks fine and clear with no visual artifacts. If there were any, they have now been removed. Region code is 0 worldwide. Sound formats are PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 Digital Surround. Both formats sound good with the DTS widening the soundfield and providing nice ambiance from the rear speakers. Menus are in English. Subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Chinese. There is a marvelously revealing 34 minute film of Ponnelle rehearsing Cosi as a bonus. Total time of the 2 discs is 209 minutes.
Ponnelle's final fimed opera is beautiful to look at and lovely to listen to. It is not the finest recorded Cosi but it is quite good nevertheless. Recommended, as long as it is not your only Cosi fan tutte and you are willing to accept lip synching.
Mozart, da Ponte, Gruberova, Harnoncourt, Ponnelle...what ar
C. Boerger | Columbus, OH USA | 05/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of all the Mozart operas, I have a special affection for the ones he did in collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte, a glorious set of non-identical triplets named Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte. The latter opera is the least celebrated of the three, the black sheep of this sparkling brood if you will, but that is hardly an insult considering the strength of the competition. Cosi is a worthy scion of the Mozart-Da Ponte parentage, a masterpiece in fact, similar to the other operas in its subversive combo of ribald subject matter and music that is spritely and almost innocent. What it lacks is a strong main character(the secondary characters Don Alfonso and Despina are the most interesting of the bunch, that is until late in the second act when the soprano develops a soul) on the order of Figaro or Giovanni(or Leporello, Donna Anna or Susannah), but since Cosi Fan Tutte is about the ephemeral nature of love, isn't it appropriate that the central lovers are more or less identity-less, even to the point of being interchangeable?
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's film plays up this concept of interchangeability. The sisters are practically identical, they even don identical masks in one scene, and the physical attributes of their lovers are sometimes confused, for instance which one is dark and which one is fair. At one point, Dorabella realizes that the Turk romancing her is actually her fiancee's friend Guglielmo but she allows him to seduce her anyway. Not all of this jibes with Mozart's vision, of course, but this is a FILM of an opera, so it is perfectly appropriate for the director to give a freer interpretation, allowing some of his own ideas to filter in. After all, if Mozart and da Ponte had lived in a more permissive time, one gets the feeling that they would have gone for the gusto so to speak and allowed even more sexual farce into their work. At any rate, Ponnelle has created a beautiful film that for the most part adheres to the composer's intentions. Often, when I am watching an opera on DVD, I get distracted by the music and lose track of the story and the visuals. In this case, the visuals occasionally distracted me from the music, no small feat considering that the composer is Mozart and the opera is Cosi Fan Tutte.
As for the singers, has there ever been a more beautifully voiced Mozart soprano than Edita Gruberova in her prime? Here she is a wonderful Fiordiligi, in perfect voice, delivering her two major arias without a glitch or even the slightest indication of strain(well, she does have the advantage of a prerecorded soundtrack). Her physical performance is just as good, she captures the character's frivolousness and later her depth, how conflicted she feels over her growing attraction to Ferrando. She steals the film, although the rest of the cast is exemplary. Luis Lima has a lower register than a lot of Mozart tenors, but that isn't a handicap, his performance of the act one aria, one of the most beautiful ever written for the tenor voice(or any voice for that matter), does supreme justice to the piece. Feruccio Furlanetto, usually cast in non-romantic parts, is a sexy and strong-voiced Ferrando. Teresa Stratas is hilarious as the saucy and conniving sobriquet Despina. Delores Ziegler, our Dorabella, holds her own among the other more-celebrated female voices. Need I say more? Paolo Montarsolo makes a wickedly charming Don Alfonso. Finally, all the singers have the appropriate looks for their roles, which is especially important in an opera film.
I own a lot of opera DVDs. I have to say, this is one of the finest in my collection. Everything clicks. If one were to turn off the picture, they would still experience as beautiful a recording of this opera as is humanly possible(Nikolaus Harnoncourt rules!). The fact that the film matches the music note for note is gravy. Don't hesitate, buy!!!!!"
A Cosi with recording-studio quality singing
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 06/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a movie version of Cosi in which the performers lip synch to a pre-recorded sound track. I expected it to detract mightily from the quality of the production, but it doesn't for two reasons. First, the lip synching is just about flawless. I don't recall seeing lips moving without the words matching (although there's a slight change in the tone of the audio as the singing starts and the soundtrack switches to "pre-recorded" mode). Second, the director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle gathered a first-rate group of performers, led by the great Edita Gruberova as Fiordiligi. Gruberova's "Per pieta" is reason alone to see (and hear) this production.
So, it's a trade-off. You lose the spontaneous and intimate feel of a live onstage performance, but you gain a sound track that is recording-studio quality."
Very nice production
A. Delaspozas | Miami, Florida United States | 12/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mozart - Cosi fan TutteWhen I decide to get a DVD I always read the reviews and I am glad that I select this version for this opera.
Sometimes,when you see an opera very far from the stage you don't see much of the acting, but with the DVD production this is very important as also the singing ,for this particular performance It is very convincing.
This is a very beautiful video."