06/28/2018 - & July 1*, 5, 8, 2018
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Così fan tutte, K. 588
Federica Lombardi (Fiordiligi), Annalisa Stroppa (Dorabella), Andrè Schuen (Guglielmo), Francesco Marsiglia (Ferrando), Lucia Cirillo (Despina), Roberto de Candia (Don Alfonso)
Coro del Teatro Regio, Andrea Sacchi (Chorus master), Carlo Caputo (pianoforte), Orchestra del Teatro Regio, Diego Fasolis (Conductor)
Ettore Scola (Stage director), Vittorio Borrelli (Revival), Luciano Ricceri (Sets), Odette Nicoletti (Costumes), Vladi Spigarolo (Lighting)
A. Stroppa, F. Lombardi (© Ramella & Giannese/Edoardo Piva)
The Teatro Regio had the novel idea of producing all three Da Ponte/Mozart operas as a trilogy, using three different stage directors. The decision to revive Ettore Scola’s 2003 production for Teatro Regio, his first operatic venture, was a most fortunate one. The late director, who left us in 2016, has directed about 40 films, including such masterpieces as C’eravamo tanto amati (1974), Una giornata particolare (1977), Passione d’amore (1981), La Nuit de Varennes (1982), Le Bal (1983) and La Famiglia (1987). Biting but melancholy comedy was characteristic of several of his films. Indeed, one can feel that same wry streak in this exceptional Turinese production of Così fan tutte. Born in Trevico in Campania, the region whose capital is Naples, Ettore Scola has a natural feeling for the Neapolitan setting of the opera. Most productions of Così fan tutte either ignore Naples as a primal influence pay lip service by featuring pretty Mediterranean scenery. However, Naples and its sardonic, often cruel sense of humour are a crucial element of the work, which Da Ponte did not choose fortuitously. During the overture, an initially sleepy and later bustling picturesque port city of Naples is featured, with its porters, sailors and merchants. Among the merchants is a tailor, who at the start of the exchange between Guglielmo, Ferrando and Don Alfonso, takes the measurements of the two young men, indicating that the older cynic had orchestrated the upcoming intrigue beforehand. The “Albanian” masquerade has commenced already. The first scene at the sisters’ home, when they sing the duet “Ah, guarda, sorella” is at the terrace of an affluent villa in an uphill posh neighbourhood, overlooking the magnificent bay. With this stroke alone of his vivid imagination, Scola has communicated plenty. Da Ponte was certainly aware of class structure and privileges. In his text, he contrasts the idle life of Fiordiligi and Dorabella with that of the maid Despina, as does Scola, through his choice of sets for the house, particularly Despina’s humble miniscule quarters. More importantly, Scola also contrasts the sisters’ “lofty” affairs affairs of the heart with Despina’s frivolous trysts. In Arlecchino-Colombina style, Despina receives and dumps her lover through the window of her little room, while the sisters brood over their state. Ettore Scola manages to introduce the essence of commedia dell’arte through Despina and, to a lesser extent, Don Alfonso, who with his loose-fitting clothes and pot belly is a representation of Pulcinella, the quintessential Neapolitan commedia dell’arte stock character. This is completely faithful to Da Ponte’s text, for what are Despina’s disguises as a Mesmeric doctor and as an old notary but commedia dell’arte numbers?
The “Albanian” disguise was actually an Indian one. Ferrando and Guglielmo looked smashing in their Moghul-style tunics. In the second act’s garden scene, when the two young men charm the sisters with the duet “Secondate, aurette amiche, secondate i miei desiri,” a quartet of the Jungle Book’s Mowgli-like boys played phantasmagorical instruments in the shape of cobras and exotic birds. This mixing of “oriental” styles is forgivable as it is supposed to be “faux” Albanian anyway. Odette Nicoletti’s costumes were authentic and beautiful, including those of the chorus that seemed to step out of an 18th century tableaux.
In addition to a most brilliant staging, this Scola production was blessed with a near perfect cast. Most impressive was mezzo Anna-Maria Stroppa as Dorabella. Hers is a warm voice, well-placed and carried with ease throughout her wide range. Her “Smanie implacabili” was exceptionally well sung. She conveyed her temperament through her vocal interpretation and acting. Federica Lombardi’s soprano was equally impressive. The high notes of “Come scoglio” were comfortable and brilliant. Lombardi’s bright voice contrasted well with Stroppa’s. Francesco Marsiglia’s Ferrando was moving. His “Un aura amorosa” was beautifully interpreted, though more emotion could have been conveyed in his “Tradito, schernito.” The Fiordiligi-Ferrando duet, “Fra gli amplessi,” was the pinnacle of vocal style and interpretation. Andrè Schuen’s Guglielmo was impressive thanks to his excellent baritone and beautiful phrasing. Thanks to his stage presence and acting, he managed to portray a contrasting temperament to Ferrando’s, a necessary detail for the dramatic balance of the opera. Roberto de Candia played the master puppeteer with brio. This Don Alfonso is a natural comic of the highest calibre, as he manages to make the public smile rather than laugh thanks to his phrasing and his understated comic style. This Don Alfonso was distinctly and subtly “louche” thanks to a few gestures and innuendo, cleverly introduced by the director’s indications. Lucia Cirillo’s Despina was an odd casting choice. She would have been better cast as Dorabella. Despina, a soubrette role, is usually sung by a light soprano. The vocal contrast between the three women is essential: a dramatic soprano, a mezzo and a lyric coloratura for Fiordiligi, Dorabella and Despina respectively. The lighter voice is also necessary for the nasal vocal disguise as the Mesmeric doctor and as the old notary. In these scenes, Cirillo wasn’t as convincing as I’d hoped. Other than her vocal limitations, the disguise costumes resembled a Bolivian indigenous woman’s rather than the intended roles.
Diego Fasolis, the Swiss Early Music specialist, led the Teatro Regio orchestra, with their modern instruments, in a baroque style, that was at times tiresome. Compared to the other two Mozart/Da Ponte collaborations, Così fan tutte is the most modern and the least ripe for a “baroque” treatment. An overdose of pianoforte accompaniment grated. Several frequently-omitted recitatives were restored, and slow tempi were adopted, especially in the first act, rendering this usually sparkling act less effervescent. Despite this miscalculation, this was the best Così fan tutte I’ve seen in years, thanks to its excellent cast and most of all due to the great imagination of the late lamented director, Ettore Scola.
Ossama el Naggar