Yesterday’s premiere in the Mahen Theatre added to the repertoire of the National Theatre Brno (NdB) the opera Così fan tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in an interesting production by Anna Petrželková. In this tale of the imprudent temptation of human feelings will be appearing the soprano Pavla Vykopalová as Fiordiligi, the mezzosoprano Václava Krejčí Housková as Dorabella and Andrea Široká as Despina. In the male roles Ondřej Koplík was on stage as Ferrando, Roman Hoza as Guglielmo and Jan Šťáva played Don Alfonso. Also taking part in the performance were the choir and orchestra of the Janáček Opera of the NdB.
While most productions of Mozart's opera highlight rather the innocent side of the libretto and subordinate the story to the testing of the love of the two couples, director Anna Petrželková accentuates the more erotic and more general aspects of the work. If the initial screening of flowing lava seemed strange to listeners and viewers, everything became clear after the raising of the curtain – the black marble interior bore the inscription Casa de Pompei, referring to the city buried by a volcano and the famous love scenes in its murals. Already in the first scene a seductive fire-eater appears, who affirms the decadent concept of the scene and the whole production, and the same girl as a stripper at the end of the first half reminds us of the concept the director Petrželková has chosen. The impression of warped abundance and immoderate morality is amplified by the continuous presence of the two Amore in golden clothing that also underlines the burlesque character of the performance. The reference to the abandoned Pompeii and the described concept is also highlighted by the huge figure of a satyr who has a deliberately exaggerated phallus. But it would be a mistake to think that the whole production was built only on a decadent understanding of human sexuality.
It was primarily the protagonists who managed to give the production human and emotional projection. Mainly due to the excellent grasp of the diction and the acting action of all, the characters came alive and gave their behaviour - be it constantly somewhat warped – sense. Although it is assumed that in an opera performance the singing is the most important thing, the acting is - especially in the contemporary directorial concept - no less important. So a greater burden is placed on the singers than is usual. Singers often have to sing and act in a breakneck counterintuitive approach to directing, which fortunately was not the case in the Brno staging of Cosi fan tutte. Perhaps the almost suspect static nature of the scenes gave space to the singers, so that they could create an overall impression of bored aristocratic decadence and take up the gauntlet thrown down by the director. And the actors were really successful in what was not an easy task. Careful enumerating of the reasons why men particularly trust women, the malicious expression of Don Alfonso, the playful contemplation by the girls of their loved ones ... All this the singers were able to materialise, not only in words, but with their performances breathed life into the characters giving them believable tastes and passions. Including everything from good-natured cronyism through the amusing foppery Ferrando and Guglielmo to the suddenly gripping and bitter hopeless final scene.
Although the actors’ actions are an important element of opera performances, the most important aspect remains undoubtedly the singing. And here also this new production is really strong. Each of the soloists alternates between moods which they can translate into a unique musical interpretation. The singers are in places hilarious, in others unhappy, but still in intonation, expression and dynamics they perfectly emphasise the inner drive of each figure. The excellent vocal work, given the solo nature of each character, appeared almost miraculous. The worldly Jan Šťáva, the seductive Andrea Široká, the bon-vivant Roman Hoza, the frolicsome and suddenly uncertain Ondřej Koplík and especially the playful, serious and awkward singers Václava Krejčí Housková and Pavla Vykopalová - it is hard to imagine a better cast for the premiere performance. A minor complaint relates to the not always expressively clear speech of Václava Krejčí Housková, which - albeit with brilliant intonation, vibrato and measured hilarious dynamics – did not always highlight the content of the lyrics. There were climaxes where the singer sounded too calm and at ease. On the other hand what deserves great praise is the vocal synthesis of all the voices and especially those of now Václava Krejčí Housková and Pavla Vykopalová. Although both singers use a significantly decorated tone and did not stint on the vibrato does, their expression was in such agreement that they resembled one body and one soul. Vykopalová however dazzled even in her absolute fidelity to the meaning of the text and her truly precise acting.
Orchestra under the baton and musical direction of Jakub Klecker was entirely consistent with the directorial concept and emphasised especially that seductive and suggestive decadent beauty and sensuality. The elegant playing of the orchestra managed to raise the level of the performance even one step higher. Also the link between the singing and the musical accompaniment was flawless. Klecker properly selected the dynamics so that the orchestra did not overwhelm the vocal component while at the same time remaining a dignified partner.
The new Brno conception of Mozart's opera stands mainly on the interaction of the actors and the flawless vocal performances. It is almost remarkable that the producers were able to connect the serious side of the work with sprightly and humorous passages, and yet not break the original intent of the opera. The music-loving public should therefore certainly not pass up the opportunity to go and see a reprise.
composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte
musical production: Jakub Klecker
conductor: Jakub Klecker and Robert Kružík
Fiordiligi: Pavla Vykopalová
Dorabella: Václava Krejčí Housková
Ferrando: Ondřej Koplík
Guglielmo: Roman Hoza
Despina: Andrea Široká
Don Alfonso: Jan Šťáva
direction: Anna Petrželková
sets: Eva Jiřikovská
costumes: Eva Jiřikovská
movement cooperation: Hana Achilles
choirmaster: Pavel Koňárek and Klára Roztočilová
dramaturgy: Patricie Částková
assistant director: Vojtěch