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Some artists proclaim their own talent and shout about how wonderful they are, hoping that their hubris wins the day – Rufus Wainwright is a prime example, like a pushy child barging to the front of the queue – and I think we can add Teodor Currentzis to their ranks. Like Wainwright, his particular offering is one that people will either love or hate, but one in which he appears to have unshakeable self-belief. But unlike Wainwright, who presents his own compositions to the public, Currentzis interprets other composers’ work, in this case, Mozart. Apparently.

If this was simply a case of épater le bourgeois I could live with it. Indeed, I rather like the idea of someone re-examining a score, wiping away the accretion of performance values that have become lazy and standardised. Whether or not one agrees with the result, it is always invigorating to hear, or see, a fresh interpretation of a masterpiece. However, Currentzis leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of the new: and his attempt to reinterpret and revive Così is precisely what deprives it of life and spontaneity. From the Overture onwards the rhythms are pulled about and the tempi are exaggerated – there is a lugubrious drawl to one phrase, followed immediately by a manic frenzy. Credit to his orchestra, Musicaeterna, that they are able to keep up. The recitatives are mannered, the fortepiano intrusive, the embellishments of variable taste, the ensembles a scramble. It all sounds very aggressive and ultimately it’s alienating.

The usually vibrant Simone Kermes meanders through the role of Fiordiligi, often in a whisper. It’s all very wispy for someone who usually attacks her roles with gusto, and more! Kenneth Tarver’s Ferrando is sweetly voiced and Christopher Maltman gives a secure account of Guglielmo, but neither seems overly characterful. At least Anna Kaysan and Konstantin Wolff don’t sound like the oft-superannuated Despina and Don Alfonso, and their singing is true. The only person who transcends what is going on around her is Malena Ernman, whose Dorabella is richly sung, with a vibrant and engaging personality. Consequently she is the only character I felt I knew anything about by the end of the opera.

The sound is excellent but very close, which leads to an awareness of the recording process.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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