In the context of a program called “Festival Mozart”, which featured an Idomeneo last year, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées has invited French conductor Jérémie Rhorer for a Così Fan Tutte staged by Eric Génovèse, a member of the Comédie-Française. This last information is of some relevance if someone has seen any staging of classical plays in the venerable institution in Paris. Sets and costumes are elegant and functional in an almost neutral manner – actors take pride of place in order to show their almost formulaic impeccable technique and even the more relaxed moments seem somehow calculated. So it was this evening. This description may suggest boredom, but no – its charms might be a tad bureaucratic, yet pleasing in an undemanding way. Especially with a cast so adept in the acting department.
The conductor has an important share in this performance’s effectiveness. Rhorer is an alert Mozartian, keen on athletic yet spontaneous rhythms, clarity and expressive phrasing. It is just a pity that his orchestra, Le Cercle de l’Harmonie lacks a more rounded sound – violins were particularly recessed (even for someone in a seat close to first violins, such as I had this evening). This alone has spoiled a great deal of the fun for me, and my mind was often busy filling in the blanks left by the orchestra. That said, I couldn’t help imagining how this would sound with, say, the Vienna Philharmonic. Even under those circumstances, some moments sounded truly original. Despina disguised as the notary read her contract in fascinating interplay with the orchestra, such as I had never heard before, for instance.
I had seen Camilla Tilling only once as Susanna in Munich. Then I found her rather small-scale and have read that she would be this evening’s Fiordiligi with misgivings. Soon to be dispelled. Although the voice is light for the role, she sang it with dexterity – creamy tone, crystal-clear divisions and plausible low notes. She has natural feeling for Mozartian phrasing, and only a reluctance to float mezza voce, a difficulty with trills and some effort that passed for emphasis when her voice could not supply more volume stood between her and success. Michèle Losier is a gifted actress, but her voice lacks a distinctive quality necessary to bring Dorabella to the fore. Claire Debono was a vivacious Despina, a metallic edge in her voice notwithstanding.
Bernard Richter has a pleasing natural voice, more German in style than what we tend to hear in this role these days. He can sound a bit nasal now and then. He certainly knows Mozartian style, but wasn’t truly at ease in Un aura amorosa. Markus Werba was a solid, not very mellifluous Guglielmo and Pietro Spagnoli was a firm-toned, funny yet menacing Don Alfonso.