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Mozart Così fan Tutte

Dessi; Ziegler; Corbellli; Kundlak; Scarabelli; Desderi
Orchestra & Chorus of Teatro alla Scala, Milan/Riccardo Muti

Opus Arte OA LS 3006 D [1989: 4/3; 187 mins]

OpusArte's La Scala Collection has given us consistent pleasure with their relatively unpretentious productions and, especially, the conducting of Riccardo Muti.

This traditional Così is a bit stiff in the first act, with the singers tending to stand and deliver, but Michael Hampe's production casts Mozart's spell in the second as the joke unravels to the discomfiture of the two pairs of partner-swapping lovers who are the subjects of Claudio Desderi's experiment, with his side-kick a Despina who doesn't develop doubts about her part in the scheme as do those in more 'modern' socially probing versions.

The scenes are pretty and bathed in sun and Mediterranean light, reminding me of Hampe's delightful production of Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri at Schwetzinger (Arthaus 100 120). The TV director Ilio Catani, by superimposing the image of Muti conducting upon the stage picture for the endings of the scenes, emphasises how the principals in this Così are but puppets, not to be taken too seriously.

Muti's tempi tend to be swift and he is in confident control of the sharp enemble singing. This version is all on one DVD, whereas the more ponderous and constantly point-making Harnoncourt/Flimm version from Zurich takes two discs and apparently 253 mins (I haven't checked out this large discrepancy) and it is the composer to whom our attention and admiration is directed by Muti for Mozart's lesson in the fickleness of love and his creation of a musical masterpiece which plumbs the depths but always with a light touch.

Maybe one should not complain at c. £15 for a very decent account of one of the greatest operas, one which many collectors will already have in celebrated CD and DVD versions, but the production standards of the booklet are irritatingly perfunctory.

As I have said elsewhere, it is good to have the Italian libretto printed as a complement to the sub-titles, but not even the small effort required has been made to harmonise the numerical list on the inside cover with track numbers (you need to add 2 throughout !). Nor is there any highlighting in the libretto of the arias and ensembles, which are italicised in the summaries of the story.

To have made all that purchaser-friendly need have taken no more than half an hour of editor Charlotte de Grey's time at her computer?

MOZART Le Nozze di Figaro

Arthaus 101 089 [4:3, 185 min]

A vintage Glyndebourne Festival production of The Marriage of Figaro, filmed 1973 in the old theatre, is well worth considering by those (of whom I count myself one) who can never have too many Figaros.

Directed by Sir Peter Hall and suavely conducted by Sir John Pritchard, with poise and consideration for the singers, it is notable for the youthful trio of up-and-coming stars, Ileana Cotrubas delightful as Susanna, Kiri te Kanawa's Countess and Federica von Stade who sings well as Cherubino, though the character does not suit her; she is stiff in her movements and far from comfortable as a boy. Of the men, Benjamin Luxon is less menacing as the Count than I prefer and Knut Skram a cheerful born schemer and winner; the Romanian bass Marius Rintzler is particularly memorable, stealing all his scenes as a corpulent and immensely self-satisfied Dr Bartolo, well partnered by Nuci Condo. The production is traditional and on my copy allowances have to be made for colour balance, dark browns and red faces....

Provided up to date digital sound isn't your priority, this will give considerable satisfaction, especially for those who like to see famous singers earlier in their careers.

© Peter Grahame Woolf