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!!!!!