Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Send in the clowns

From October 15, 2015:


We tend to make allowances for everything but the singing and the orchestral playing in opera. A slightly wooden tenor or over-the-top histrionic soprano is good enough if the singing is superlative, though we’d complain about similar acting in a play or film. This is relevant especially with comedy. So often some smirks and a bit of stage business put together at the last minute will have to do, even in the great comedy-dramas of Mozart. That’s why this production of Cosi fan Tutte is such a surprise, and a delight. The six principles are all gifted farceurs: Malin Hartelius and Luca Pisaroni as the sisters, Luca Pisaroni and Martin Mitterrutzner as their suitors, Marie-Claude Chappuis as the amoral maid, and the great Gerald Finley as the puppet master Don Alfonso. This isn’t just good comedy for an opera, it’s great comedy that wouldn’t be out of place in a West End production of a Wilde or Ayckbourn play. Better than that, the timing of the singers and the laugh-choreography of Director Sven-Eric Bechtolf is as good as a classic sitcom. We’re talking Seinfeld or Frasier here! As well, there’s more than just farce on display, as the betrayal and heartbreak hidden beneath the cynical high spirits are beautifully conveyed by the four lovers.

Cosi fan Tutte is a great comedy-drama, the Mozart-da Ponte opera where drama wells up unexpectedly from a comic situation. The work is immensely enhanced by Mozart’s contribution, with the stage drollery punctuated by clever asides from the orchestra, and the underlying serious nature of love conveyed by his gorgeous vocal lines and complex accompaniments. Conductor Christophe Eschenbach keeps the musical side of the production at the highest level. While I opened with extravagant praise for the acting skills of the soloists, that’s not to say their singing is anything other than superb. One could with great pleasure listen to the very fine Dolby 5.0 audio by itself. But it’s nice to not have to close one’s eyes, as one sometimes does in the opera house or in front of the flat screen at home, to focus on the singing and playing while trying to blot out what’s happening on stage.

Here is the production's trailer:

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