Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Così fan Freiburger Barockorchester

Così fan tutte (in concert), Salle Pleyel - Paris, September 27 2010

Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Marie-Claude Chappuis, and maestro Jacobs

     René Jacobs ..... conductor

     Alexandrina Pendatchanska ..... Fiordiligi
     Marie-Claude Chappuis ..... Dorabella
     Sunhae Im ..... Despina
     Johannes Weisser ..... Guglielmo
     Magnus Staveland ..... Ferrando
     Marcos Fink ..... Don Alfonso   
      Coro Gulbenkian
         Freiburger Barockorchester

This opera never gets old. It's almost unbelievable that it was written, composed and performed in the 18th century.

After not so good Così at TCE last June, it was a pleasure to have the superb Freiburger Barockorchester and maestro René Jacobs bringing this score to life in their peculiar way. What I like about René the most is that, unlike many other conductors, he has a concept of how to play this music and it is based on his long and dedicated research. You either like the result or not but you cannot deny that he pondered over every single note of the score before suggesting the orchestra how to play it. Every instrument produces a discernible sound, integrated in a rich orchestral harmony. I should probably stress that his too analytic approach to Mozart is also used as an argument by his detractors when they complain about the lack of spontaneity in Jacobs' interpretations of Mozart.

Another undeniable thing about René Jacobs is that whenever he comes to Paris, it's with one of the top notch baroque orchestra. This time his orchestra was simply perfect. As a curiosity (and a pleasant surprise), I noticed that 50% of the orchestra  members were female.

With all these good points comes the fact that Jacobs' Così is very fast -- too fast for me. With this orchestra this is maybe a bonus as it makes orchestra sound impressively dexterous, but I personally prefer to feel more of the structure of the score and let the music hit me, than rushing through it.

Even though they planned a concert performance, the singers and the chorus acted as if it was fully staged. Only decors were missing, but everything else was so well done that many directors venturing in Così could learn from what these singers did last night without stage direction. Special props are due to Coro Gulbekian. They were not many bout sounded and acted extremely well.

I was somewhat less impressed by the soloists. Alexandrina Pendatchanska --who I normally like-- took a long time to tune in and for almost 80 minutes preceding her aria, Come scoglio, she nervously poised on the audibility threshold. OK, Pleyel is a tough hall to sing in but I've listened to her Elettra at Pleyel a couple of years ago when her voice was not this small. With that being said, Come scoglio was very good, and after that she seemed more relaxed. Sunhae Im is a very good soprano, with a very charming scenic presence, but Despina seems to be too low for her. She's impressive when going for the top notes, but obviously suffers to keep the volume high when digging in her lower vocal register. Marie-Claude Chappuis was the best lady singer of the night. Her voice is rich, strong on both sides of the spectrum and I am sure we'll hear more of her in the future.

Chappuis, Im, Pendatchanska

As for the men, Don Alfonso is the role that suits Marcos Fink like a glove, and him being this good should not be a surprise. Johannes Weisser and  Magnus Staveland were good too, even if their main arias were not the highlights of the evening.

Fink, Weisser, Staveland [and René Jacobs]

In summary, it was a pleasant evening, although the last year's Jacobs-event in Paris (Die Zauberflöte) will remain more memorable than this Così fan tutte.
Talking about the last year's Jacobs-event, I noticed that a week ago  Harmonia Mundi released the CD pack with that The Magic Flute [see its Making of video ]


  1. I attended his Magic Flute in Santa Fe this past summer: It was SUPERB! I have never heard a Mozart opera sound to effortless. FOr the first time (and I have seen more than a few Flutes in regional theater in the US) I really enjoyed every second of Sarastro's arias. Magnificent experience.

  2. I am glad you liked it. It really is a special musical experience.

    If you get to listen to the Jacobs' recording of Idomeneo (with Richard Croft killing the title-role) it is really great.

    Così is good but IMHO not in the same league with The Magic Flute or Idomeneo.