The collaboration between René Jacobs and Palau de la Música Catalana to perform the three Mozart/Da Ponte operas arrived at its end with Così fan tutte. Although the previous production of Don Giovanni, two years ago, was a little bit disappointing due to a very irregular vocal cast, expectations were high thanks to the presence of the Freiburger Barockorchester and the Chamber Chorus of the Palau. Even considering that the choice of singers seems to be a weak point in Jacobs’ productions, this time I must admit that I was positively surprised. Moreover, both the FBO and the Palau’s Chamber Chorus delivered an excellent, delightful, sparkling performance.

René Jacobs © Josep Molina
René Jacobs
© Josep Molina

More than half of the scenes in Così are duets, trios or concertante, which means that singers must be able to sing beautifully together, rather than behaving as soloists. This is probably why the cast performed better than in the aforementioned Don Giovanni: the voices Jacobs chooses are usually better to perform polyphony than opera. But it Così it works.

The mezzo-soprano Sophie Harmsen stood out among the cast. Her powerful Dorabella was one of the best I've heard. The psychological evolution of this character, from the naïve beginning to the doubts and the anger at the end, was precisely depicted with diverse voice colors and beautiful acting, even that in a semi-staged performance.

Johannes Weisser was a nice Guglielmo, full of contrasts, while Marcos Fink sang a wonderful Alfonso. He is an experienced singer, able to fill the scene with just a gesture and a couple of notes. This character is the counterpart to Despina, performed by soprano Sunhae Im. She lacks a powerful voice, but she shone in this role thanks to her great vis comica.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Robin Johannsen and Mark Milhofer. Johannsen has a great voice and sings tastefully in the higher register, but she often just disappears when going to chest voice. Milhofer’s projection was not enough to impose himself over the orchestra.

The Chamber Chorus of the Palau de la Música Catalana is in excellent form at the moment. Its new director, Simon Halsey, is building a great sound on the previous work by Josep Vila, and the results are amazing. Precision, power and taste were put together in their performance.

Finally, the Freiburger Barockorchester did exactly what was expected: an impressive sound, clear, full of nuances under Mr Jacobs' baton. His style is extremely personal, with quite fast tempi sometimes, but demanding at the same time a very specific, complex articulation. It seems he has found in the excellent musicians of this orchestra the perfect laboratory to explore his conception of Mozart. It needs to be mentioned apart the excellent work by Sebastian Wienand and Stefan Mühleisen accompanying the recitatives with an extreme efficacy and imagination.