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In some productions of Così the two women are costumed to look very similar, almost interchangeable. Here they definitely are not. Physically the women are difficult to mix up – Katharina Kammerloher (Dorabella) is at least six inches taller than Dorothea Röschmann (Fiordiligi), and they’re distinguished by wigs as well. Dorabella’s is blonde, and Fiordiligi’s is black (the wigs belong to the characters – they come off by Act II).
And the two sisters have quite distinct personalities as well. Kammerloher’s Dorabella is utterly deadpan and very funny. She literally blends into the furniture – her dress in the first part of Act I is the same pattern as the sofa. When the men leave, they both whip out magic markers and leave their fiancées very personal little reminders of them – Ferrando unzips Dorabella’s dress and draws a big F on her bra, while Guglielmo evidently does something similar, but since Fiordiligi’s dress zips in the back, we can’t tell what he writes. But the girls’ reactions are very distinct. Fiordiligi looks startled and then seems to be trying to figure out whether she likes this interesting sensation or not, while Dorabella just has this “god, not the bullshit with the marker again” look on her face.
Röschmann’s Fiordiligi is a ball of nervous energy. She’s squirrelly and agitated and soon also overwhelmed and upset and even more agitated by what is going on. Her reaction to many things is to clamp her hands over her ears and hide. Röschmann is quite funny doing all this (the physical comedy in general in this production can be a little slapsticky, but this is not out of place and it usually works fairly well, e.g. there is one moment during the party scene when Fiordiligi is leading Ferrando off to take their walk and he stops suddenly, causing her to lose her footing and almost knock over a tree/lamp, and the blow to the lamp causes it to flicker, and Fiordiligi gets this panicked look on her face like “I broke it! Did I break it? oh no!”) but it’s serious as well. Fiordiligi is a little more high-strung than her sister – a lot more high strung than her sister – she’s both more obsessively devoted to her boyfriend and, when she falls, seems to fall a little harder.
Röschmann and Kammerloher not only play well off one another dramatically, but they sound great together as well. Their duets are some of my favorite parts of this.
In fact, as I watched and listened to this I sort of forgot that I was listening to Röschmann – partly it’s the wig, and partly because she’s so utterly in character. But the wig comes off in Act II and about the time it does, we are back in more conventional Röschmann mode: emoting the hell out of things, as in “per pietà.” The recitative leading up to this aria is both lovely and nail-you-to-the-wall intense. The aria itself, with all those big leaps, reveals an aspect of DR’s voice that some don’t like, which is that the lowest notes are earthier-sounding and fairly distinct from the rest of her voice (you get this in “ah guarda, sorella” in Act I, too, where the soprano part goes down to A below middle C – I rather like the sound, but not everyone does). I didn’t enjoy this aria as much as I did come scoglio and some of the ensemble sections. “Come scoglio” in particular is a riot. It’s got this wonderful combination of utter precision and a huge amount of personality – one of those moments of Mozart singing that is both abstractly beautiful and completely in character. (And fun! Mozart should be fun.)
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