After a three-decade absence, Riccardo Muti received an unprecedented 10 minutes of applause when he returned to the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, the world’s oldest continuously operating opera house, to conduct Mozart’s Così fan tutte.

In its review, the Italian national newspaper Corriere della Sera raved: “The San Carlo opened its season yesterday with the smashing success of bringing back Riccardo Muti for an opera in his home city, 34 years after [he last conducted there].” When Muti joined the cast for the curtain call, the enthusiastic audience delivered 10 minutes of applause and attempted in vain to lure the conductor back for an encore.

Muti, the Zell Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has a long history with Così, which he conducted early his career, and about which, it has been said, “he knows note by note and word by word.”

A co-presentation with the Vienna State Opera, the new production features Maria Bengtsson (Fiordiligi), Paola Gardina (Dorabella), Alessio Arduini (Guglielmo), Pavel Kolgatin (Ferrando), Emmanuelle de Negri (Despina) and Marco Filippo Romano (Don Alfonso). The third of Mozart’s operas with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, Così takes a satirical view of love as it follows two couples as they test their fidelity. The opera features some of Mozart’s most beloved moments, including the trio Soave sia il vento and the arias Come scoglio and Un’aura amorosa.

Il Giornale Italia noted that “Così fan tutte is definitely one of the titles dear to his heart,” and applauded Muti’s “light touch, typical of the Neapolitan master.”

Corriere della Sera described the production as a Così fan tutte “crossed by a veil of melancholy that covers the bitterness of human relationships: it is the element that connotes (together with the timbral transparency displayed in sia il vento, the opera’s most famous ensemble), the direction of Muti, his leitmotiv. It is the work of losing oneself and finding oneself again. But nothing will be like before, it is understood in the end, during the unmasking, while the couples are recomposed, and there is no lack of tension between them.”

And Spain’s El Pais observed: “Muti not only thinks exactly the same as Mozart but has made his dream come true. At the historic Teatro di San Carlo, where Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini premiered many of their operas …  our most vivid memory here [of Muti] was the Macbeth production he directed in 1984. Muti [reasserted] himself yesterday more than ever in the exquisiteness of Mozart’s music. 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.”

TOP (and below): The new co-production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, conducted by Riccardo Muti, received a rapturous response at the Teatro di San Carlo. | Photo: ©Silvia Lelli