"It all started with a phone call: 'I am Karajan'. And I thought it was one that wanted to play a joke on me, "recalled Riccardo Muti last night about the beginning of his relationship with Così fan tutte. The Italian maestro (Naples, 78 years old) had just directed this Mozart opera at the Teatro di San Carlo in his hometown, an expected return to that historic moat, after 34 years of absence. The event marked the beginning of the new season in the theater directed by Paolo Pinamonti, but it will also be the only opera represented under the musical direction of Muti this season. A co-production with the Vienna Staatsoper, where it will arrive in 2020, signed by his daughter, the actress and stage director Chiara Muti, and where the theatrical essences of this dramma giocoso, with libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, usually so harassed by the current stage modernism.
It was not a historicist proposal. Muti's revolution with Mozart's opera, which began at the 1982 Salzburg Festival, then controlled by the almighty Karajan, has not lost its relevance after almost four decades. The Italian director was confronted with the German tradition of Karl Böhm and Josef Krips, who limited himself to polish the notes written by Mozart, and revealed the importance of the libretto by Da Ponte to reach the music of the Salzburger. We heard him, last night, in each recitative, admirably accompanied to the fortepiano by Luisella Germano, where the freedom of the singers was always closely linked to the strict observance of the text. And that fluidity, which emanates from the symbiosis between word and music, infected a memorable version of this opera. Another one, since Muti has the biggest and most outstanding crop in DVD of Così fan tutte: Festival of Salzburg, in 1983 (Arthaus / TDK), Teatro alla Scala, in 1989 (Opus Arte) and Staatsoper in Vienna, in 1996 (Medici).
The great symbiosis of Da Ponte and Mozart in Così fan tutte, between a libretto full of double meanings and a music of captivating sincerity, it continues giving rise to the discussion. Starting with his setting, which has always been located in Naples. Muti remembers a single reference in the libretto to the city of Parténope, when Dorabella cites Vesuvius as a metaphor for her amorous ardor. But it also recognizes that it could be a game to refer to the town of Wiener Neustadt, neighbor of the Austrian capital and where, it seems, the real story that inspired this bizarre comedy of young lovers who learn vital lessons could happen. The Italian director, always very fond of semantics, sees it clearly: Neustadt ("Neu Stadt") means in German the same as Naples ("Nea-polis") in Greek, that is, "new city". He also defends the sincerity of Mozart who always dreamed of triumphing in Naples. "Note that he wrote to his father that an opera in Naples brought more credit and honor than a hundred concerts in Germany," he recalled last night in his brief encounter with EL PAÍS, citing that famous letter of 1777.
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libreto by Lorenzo da Ponte. Cast: Maria Bengtsson, Paola Gardina, Alessio Arduini, Pavel Kolgatin, Emmanuelle de Negri, Marco Filippo Romano. Orchestra and Choir of the Teatro di San Carlo. Musical direction: Riccardo Muti. Stage direction: Chiara Muti. Opera and Dance Season 2018/19. Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, until December 2.
Muti not only thinks exactly the same as Mozart but has made his dream come true. Already in his autobiography we read a juicy chapter about his relationship with the historic Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, where Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini premiered many of his operas. Apart from his first orchestral experiences, in the seventies and with symphonic repertoire, or his visits with other orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic Concert for Europe, in 2009, his most vivid memory here was the production of Macbeth he directed in 1984. Now, 34 years later, he seems more convinced than ever not only of his acoustic efficiency, which he submits to moments of magical intimacy, but of being directing in one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. Muti recreated himself yesterday more than ever in the exquisiteness of Mozart's music that made him float with weightlessness at times like, for example, in the placid recitative with orchestral accompaniment, "Di scrivermi ogni giorno", with those violas that sang like a character more or, soon after, in the famous terzettino "Soave sia il vento", which Muti turned into the best of the night. His version of the opera materializes, now clearer than ever, that vindication of the everyday on the stage, where we smile to cope with the tears of life.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this new production was, without a doubt, the stage direction of Chiara Muti. It is clear that there are surnames that in the world of opera can weigh like a slab. But also that this young actress, who in 2012 started a career as a stage director, has a personal baggage linked to Giorgio Strehler, one of the most conspicuous stage collaborators of his father; its influence was evident in many aspects, as in the symmetries or the games so characteristic of lights and shadows. But he also has his own ideas, such as that unique scenography, made by Leila Fleta and inspired by The Oath of the Ball Game, by Jacques-Louis David, which he fills with extras to provide nerve and dynamism; the first scene has, for example, a tennis match between the two officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, with the philosopher Don Alfonso as referee. The space ends by combining reality and illusion and represents that disenchantment that implies learning from life and becoming an adult. There are also moments of theatrical wit, like that magnet to extract poison turned into simple undulating ribbons. In addition, colorful scenes stand out, like the party in the garden on the seashore, with Despina on a balloon turned into a cupid.
The orchestra and the choir of the Teatro di San Carlo responded admirably to Muti's demands. But also a vocal cast, young and compact, which was more during the show. It was led by the young Swedish soprano Maria Bengtsson, a brilliant Fiordiligi, who had her peak moment in the rondo "Per pietà", with exquisite dynamics and a beautiful use of the filato. The mezzo Italian Paola Gardina, like Dorabella, combined her skills as an actress with great self-confidence in her aria of the second act "E Amore un ladroncello". And even more complete was the soprano Emmanuelle de Negri, like Despina, where she took advantage of all her ductility as a singer of ancient music to give life to each and every one of the vocal folds of the character. The male cast was one point below. Pavel Kolgatin, like Guiglielmo, exhibited an exquisite record in the aria "A amorous aura", although the Ferrando of Alessio Arduini gave himself more in the cavatina "Tradito, schernito". Finally, Marco Filippo Romano was a good Don Alfonso. At the exit, after midnight, we still managed to close the day with a sfogliatella in the historic Caffé Gambrinus.