Aug 29, 2009

Guth's Cosi - Salzburg 2009

Act 2, Last scene

Cosi fan tutte
 W. A. Mozart

Fiordiligi - Miah Persson
Dorabella - Isabel Leonard
Ferrando - Topi Lehtipuu
Guglielmo - Florian Boesch
Don Alfonso - Bo Skovhus
Despina - Patricia Petibon
Wiener Philharmoniker & Staatsopernchor
Adam Fischer Musikalische Leitung
Claus Guth Regie

Salzburg, July 30 2009, ORF2 broadcast

Claus Guth's Cosi, that was performed this summer in Salzburg, is set in a modern house near the woods where Don Giovanni was wandering in last year. The dark atmosphere is pretty similar in both productions but Don Giovanni was a masterpiece - and Cosi is just an accumulation of awkward moments.

The fault is on Guth obviously, who saturated this production with German expressionism, but also on the cast, who was not able - Isabel Leonard excepted - to convey Guth's vision.
But since the singing was overall good, I blame Guth again on that subject - for not simplifying his direction. If your ideas don't work with the cast you have, you must adapt. Mustn't you? The most obvious example lies with Don Alfonso. Guth's idea of Cosi is focused around Don Alfonso - portrayed as Gounod's Méphitophélès from Faust : dark and manipulative.

This concept first lost credibility when he added tons of expressionism - Konwitschny-style.
It then sank when Bo Skovhus was cast for the role - no insult intended, but he's definitely no Erwin Schrott. And I'm pretty sure this production could only have worked with Schrott as Don Alfonso. Well, I suppose this only means you can't be a genius all the time. Better luck next time.

Isabel Leonard
[superb "Amore è un ladroncello" in Act 2]
  Patricia Petibon
  Florian Boesch & Miah Persson

Further reading:
" Au Festival de Salzbourg, un "Cosi" sous hypnose mais peu hypnotique ", Renaud Machart for Le Monde with once again a brilliant review (Aug.8). Chosen extracts: " On pourrait dire que Claus Guth a les idées frappées au coin du nonsense : mais ses excentricités ont toujours un sens, caché ou évident, qui finit par convertir les sceptiques et par le distinguer des metteurs en scène dont l'art du détournement aboutit au cul-de-sac du raccourci abusif. A première vue, ce Cosi est de la même trempe. Il tente de boucler la boucle par des liens récurrents avec les deux autres spectacles salzbourgeois : Eros mène toujours les personnages au doigt et à la braguette ; la forêt de Don Giovanni, lieu de mystère et de sortilèges, est rappelée ; l'escalier monumental des Noces est réinstallé, mais dans une version de l'architecte allemand Mies van der Rohe pour une villa californienne des bords du Pacifique.
(...) Guth a eu l'idée de faire de Don Alfonso un hypnotiseur, vaguement sorcier, un peu John Travolta (mais pourquoi ces mouvements de danse ?), qui claque des doigts, frappe dans les mains (se reprend si cela ne marche pas) et manipule tout le monde.
(...) Cosi, apparemment si simple et si binaire, est pourtant le plus difficile à monter de la trilogie Da Ponte. De très grands, comme Patrice Chéreau, s'y sont même cassé les dents. La lecture de Guth semble plaquée artificiellement sur l'oeuvre, alors qu'elle semblait découler naturellement d'elle dans les deux précédents volets.
(...) En fosse, Adam Fischer (...) souligne adroitement les détails cachés de la partie orchestrale, ménage un cantabile permanent et des tempos sans excès. Tout cela est raisonnable, bien sous tout rapport, mais d'un ennui redoutable."


Maria said...

All this so-called modern staging without beautiful costumes according to the era the opera refers to or without the lighting and atmosphere of those times, such an opera loses its meaning and the audience is in a false situation.
We do not go to the opera to see our boring wardrobe or our ordinary flats. We go to be transferred to the fashion and surroundings of those times the composer refers to.
Nice voices is not enough. We need the story intact, whether the stage directors like it or not.

Extatic said...

Actually Guth is one of the very few to really be able to reinterpret a storyline and turn it into something really personal and meaningful.

It's all about what you're expecting from a director.
I myself want a new light on the libretto and I'm quite attracted to German directors for that. Of course this usually mean you're totally disappointed but at times, results can be magical (see for instance Don Giovanni staged by Guth in Salzburg last year).

Of course if you expect the libretto, the whole libretto and nothing but the libretto, you can turn to Zefirelli and his heirs (such as Hugo de Ana whose production of Il Barbiere in Verona I have yet to review).

Maria said...

I see what you mean Extatic. But then again Flimm for example who is very german himself messed it up in Moise et Farahon in Salburg this year. He did not want to deal with this opera from the first place but Muti wanted it and Jurgen obeyed. I am sure that he leaves the festival in relief giving his place to a new artistic director next year.
I do like Zefirelli's work and I wish all stage directors were like him. Taste, elegance and beauty are three elements that we are missing so much in operas today!

Bluedog said...

Well, I have just seen the big screen version, and have to say I loved it.

I really enjoyed the darkness and the fact that Alfonso manipulates the action. Makes a change from a straight comedy. Cosi is actually a pretty dark piece anyway if you think about it.

It does not all work, and you could pick holes in plot and action mismatches. And the video projection was not needed and did not add to the whole.

But the singing was really great, and lots of detail in the acting as well, which came across on the big screen.

In the pit, the conductor was doing it from memory. Amazing.

I am a big advocate of "being there live", and don't think opera on TV or radio works well at all. I was a little worried about whether or not I would enjoy opera in the cinema. It is a different experience certainly, and for chamber operas like Cosi, it worked well. On a busier set it might have been more of a challenge. It is all in the filming.

Extatic said...

I've seen worst productions, for sure, and quite often actually.

But this Cosi is, in my mind, the weakest of the three Da Ponte/Mozart Operas Guth agreed to direct in Salzburg.

Beaumarchais said...

I want just to say, I only have seen this producrtion, yesterday on Screen, and only this opera from the trilogy, but fo me is the best productions of Così fan tutte I ever have been. Intelligent, elegant, without topics and with a really true opera actors