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There are three factors that militate against the success of this Virgin DVD: Patrice Chéreau (I last experienced him at the Bayreuth centenary Ring) has decided to turn the courtyard of the Archbishop's palace at Aix-en-Provence into the enclosure of a Naples tenement, so that we get no glance of the garden and bay Da Ponte had in mind; Daniel Harding on the rostrum chooses many a tempo for his gallant Mahler Chamber Orchestra that the singers can hardly manage so that speeds have often to be adjusted accordingly; and the powerful Ruggero Raimondi as Don Alfonso appears to take such a malicious delight in the manipulation of his puppets that Mozart ends up as apparently the wrong composer.

Ruggero Raimondi as Don Alfonso in Act I of Così fan tutte. © 2006 Azor Films/Bel Air Media
Ruggero Raimondi as Don Alfonso in Act I of Così fan tutte. © 2006 Azor Films/Bel Air Media

'No Smoking' in large letters at the back of the yard is the main instruction to Shawn Mathey's Ferrando and the Guglielmo of Stéphane Degout as they listen with supercilious incredulity to Alfonso's view of woman's inconstancy. They could not envisage any such experience [listen -- DVD 1 chapter 2, 4:32-6:20]. The girlfriends are equally sure of themselves as they wander among the non-existent flower-beds. Both are gazing at miniatures of their beloved, Erin Wall as Fiordiligi ecstatic over Gugliemo, and Ferrando equally admired by Elina Garanca's Dorabella [listen -- DVD 1 chapter 3, 15:46-16:47]. Such cooing, though, takes no account of Don Alfonso.

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Copyright © 2 November 2006 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt

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